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Examination of Witness

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Joe Owen:

There are bits that are still up for grabs, but in comparison with a lot of other areas, we have a clearer vision of the detail of the policy for after Brexit. There is an interesting question, between the Bill and the White Paper, about the vision and strategy—what is immigration for, after Brexit? That question is still missing and has been missing for quite a long time. The last immigration White Paper was in 2006, I think, and there has never really been a discussion about the aims and objectives of the immigration system.

In the most recent White Paper, there are conversations about salary thresholds and RQF levels, and quite detailed policy questions. At the front, in terms of aims and objectives, there are two pages that talk about being fair and balanced and working for the whole UK, but with no real idea of what that means and what the system is supposed to achieve. There is that gap. In terms of whether the Bill is quiet on the big issue, I think the White Paper is there.

There is a question about what the Bill should say about citizens’ rights, if anything. It is fair that, given what is in the withdrawal agreement as it stands, and the fact that it is a key part of the negotiation, it makes sense that that sits in the withdrawal agreement Bill, not least because there are some things in there about the precedent of EU law and so on, which is all best dealt with in a single case. If there is no contention—I have not heard much in the UK Parliament, I have heard nothing in the EU and I have heard nothing between the UK and the EU about disagreement with the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement—why has the withdrawal agreement Bill not been published in draft, or at least the areas that cover citizens’ rights? That would be a way of setting out in more detail what is likely to come down the track, for those who are uncertain about what is missing in this Bill, even if it is in draft and only covers certain sections of the withdrawal agreement.