Monday 13 July 2020 2:27 pm

Priti Patel scraps freedom of movement in new immigration rules

Home Secretary Priti Patel today unveiled plans for a post-Brexit immigration system for the UK, which will see freedom of movement scrapped in favour of a points-based scheme and a crackdown on illegal Channel crossings.

A new 130-page document presented by Patel in the House of Commons today abolishes the freedom of movement into the UK for unskilled migrants in favour of a new system that awards points to applicants that speak English, have skilled job offers, and meet minimum salary requirements. 

Read more: Landmark post-Brexit immigration bill returns to parliament

The move, which formed a key part of Boris Johnson’s election manifesto, aims to persuade businesses to hire British workers and to end the UK’s reliance on cheap, low-skilled migrants. 

In a written statement, Patel said: “At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.”

However, the home secretary assured that the new system would also allow British businesses to “attract the best and brightest from around the world” to “complement the skills we already have”.

Skilled EU and non-EU migrants must earn 70 points to be eligible to work in the UK under the new immigration system.

50 of those points must come from having a skilled job offer from an approved employer and from speaking English. The remaining 20 points can come from a variety of extracurricular categories, where qualifications can be “traded” for points to meet the required 70.  

Non-UK citizens with job offers in “shortage occupations” such as nursing and civil engineering will also be able to earn extra points under the system.

The new immigration rules, which will come into effect from 1 January, will also ban foreign criminals sentenced to more than a year in jail from entering the country. Immigration officials will be able to turn away migrants found guilty of serious harm, even if they have been sentenced to less than a year in jail.

Patel is expected to announce that the new rules will replace 2004 EU legislation, which MPs believe is insufficient in barring foreign criminals from entering the country, as it only excludes convicted criminals if they are found to present “a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society”.

Patel said the changes would “restore trust in the immigration system and deliver a new fairer, firmer, skills-led system from 1 January 2021.”

The home secretary has also agreed to form a “joint intelligence cell” with France to tackle the number of migrants crossing the Channel. 

It comes after French and British police yesterday stopped a total of almost 400 migrants from crossing the Channel from either end after coast guard officials responded to several incidents.

Yesterday set a new daily record of 180 migrants trying to reach to the UK after crossing the Channel, according to figures released this morning. 

Patel said that “despite all of the action taken by law enforcement to date — intercepting the boats, making arrests, returning people to France and putting the criminals responsible behind bars — the numbers continue to increase”.

Read more: Brexit: A quarter of British businesses ready for end of transition period

She added: “This simply cannot be allowed to go on. Today I have signed an agreement with the French to create a joint intelligence cell which will crack down on the gangs behind this vile people-smuggling . . .”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The security of UK citizens is our top priority. We regularly review the criminality framework rules to ensure we deliver against that priority. We have been clear that all migrants will need to comply with the UK’s strict criminality rules.”

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