Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 14th February 2019.

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Adrian Berry:

The question was about clause 1, not about the Henry VIII powers in clause 4. There is a complete change from free movement to the immigration rules. We are changing from a permissive system where people can circulate in and out to a one-directional system where migrants come and are on routes to settlement.

What is really changing is the economic migration rules for EU citizens, who in essence will have to satisfy the tier 2 general work permit regime. At the moment, the Home Office deals with 20,000-plus work permits a year. EU migration for economic purposes will be greater by several orders of magnitude. If the question is whether the system for economic migration is robust enough, the answer is no, because the capacity is not there to deal with it.

The White Paper adopts the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations, which gives you some idea of where the Home Office wants to go but does not tell you anything about how it is going to work in practice. You are talking about a multiple factor of four, five or six in terms of the number of work permits that may have to be issued, and there is simply no real understanding of that.

Nor is there any understanding of how people will come and go to provide services on a short-term basis. The permitted paid engagement route and the business visitor rules are simply inadequate to replace the free movement of services. For example, under the permitted paid engagement route, you can only come for a month and take a fee from a UK-based client. There seems to be no thinking about that. It is certainly not on the face of the Bill, and it is not in the White Paper, so we are very short on detail.

Clause 1 is of course necessary for replacing free movement with a domestic system of immigration control, and schedule 1 reflects that commitment, but it does not tell you where the direction is. When you combine that with clause 4, which gives the Secretary of State wide powers to make regulations in the absence of Parliament, essentially usurping the function of Parliament—and of you, if you are not on the payroll—to make legislation, that creates a very dangerous situation.