The Queen has opened a new session of Parliament with a speech setting out her Government’s legislative agenda. Whilst the forthcoming Immigration Bill obtained an early mention, the speech contained very little on the specifics:
“An immigration bill, ending free movement, will lay the foundation for a fair, modern and global immigration system. My Government remains committed to ensuring that resident European citizens, who have built their lives in and contributed so much to, the United Kingdom, have the right to remain. The bill will include measures to reinforce this commitment.”
Nothing very new there. We already know that the Government is working on a new framework for immigration control to take effect from January 2021.
A little more colour is provided by the background briefing notes published by number 10. In his introduction the Prime Minister emphasises his intention to:
“..seize the opportunities that Brexit will bring to take back control of our borders, our monies and our laws. Once again we will be in charge of our own trading policy and our fishing waters, and we will pave the way for a new points based immigration system.”
Emphasis must be on the word “new” – we have after all had a points-based system in the UK since 2008. It is likely that the focus on the new global points based system will be on the attributes of individual economic migrants and the skills and qualities they can bring to the UK rather than the caps, quotas and sponsor compliance that prevailed for many years. We will need to wait until January 2020 and the publication of the MAC report before the structure of a new PBS scheme begins to take shape.
In the meantime the main elements of the Immigration Bill will act to facilitate the Brexit transition and enforce citizen’s rights. The key provisions will:
- End the free movement of EU citizens under UK law.
- Give the executive the power to align treatment of EU citizens arriving after January 2021 with non-EU citizens, and to maintain the treatment of EU citizens resident in the UK before exit day.
- Clarify the immigration status of Irish citizens in the UK once the free movement rules are removed from UK law.
- Confirm the deadline for applications to be made under the EU Settlement Scheme.
- Give EU citizens and their family members who apply a right of appeal against EU Settlement Scheme decisions.
The Government is not in a position to implement it’s legislative agenda as it does not hold a majority in Parliament. This Queen’s Speech therefore can be seen more as a manifesto commitment or statement of intent. A general election is inevitable in the near future. First however is the crucial question of whether a deal can be reached with the EU and ratified by Parliament by 31 October.