Freedom of movement will continue after Brexit

A new immigration system will not be ready by the time we formally leave the EU, argues a new report. The UK could therefore be forced to keep the controversial ‘free movement of people’ for several years post-Brexit.

Published today by the Institute for Government (IfG), Implementing Brexit: Immigration spells out the enormity of the task and finds that successful implementation of a new immigration system by April 2019 is unfeasible – not just for government, but also employers, landlords and providers of public services.

But unlike other areas impacted by Brexit, immigration policy can be decided by the UK alone – so there is no ‘cliff-edge’. The report then recommends that the government keep the current system until a replacement is ready, avoiding multiple changes.

The report also says the existing process for registering EU nationals is not fit for purpose. It says if the residency system isn’t overhauled as a matter of urgency, the government could need up to 5000 extra civil servants to process applications and deal with the large number of appeals over the next two years.

Jill Rutter, Brexit Programme Director at the IfG, said:

“The political imperative for change in immigration is significant, but so is the administrative challenge. The scale of the task – creating a new immigration system – is huge and it is critical that Government gets it right. The current process for dealing with permanent residence applications from EU nationals is not fit for purpose, as the government itself acknowledged. It needs to be streamline as a matter of urgency and as a first step towards a new post-Brexit system.”

Joe Owen, IfG Researcher and report author, said:

“Brexit is an opportunity to design an immigration system that is more effective for the country and less burdensome for employers. It’s important that the Government avoids making multiple changes and introducing unnecessary disruption and confusion. To provide stability, we should continue with the existing migration system until the new one is ready.”

For more information, please contact Nicole Valentinuzzi on 07850313791.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. The report can be found our website or available upon request.
  2. This is the first in a series of IfG papers on implementing Brexit.
  3. The Institute for Government (IfG) is an independent think tank working to make government more effective
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