U.K. to Unveil Brexit Migrant Plans Within Months, Rudd Says

Updated on
  • Home Secretary weighs visa move ahead of summer consultations
  • Lords set to clash on EU citizens’ rights in Brexit law debate

Britain is to unveil plans for overhauling migrant-worker rules after Brexit in a report later this year, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said, as she promised to act on public fears over immigration.

Rudd said her office is “looking at all the different options” for managing immigration from the European Union once the U.K. leaves the bloc. It could include the merits of a work-permit scheme, a multi-year visa system and scrapping the right of migrants to claim social-security benefits while working.

Amber Rudd

Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

“We are going to work with businesses, with employers to make sure that the immigration system we put in place does enable them to continue to thrive and continue to grow,” Rudd said on “Peston on Sunday” on ITV television. “We are against cliff edges, so as part of the consultation we will be bringing out in the summer, we will be asking them the best way to deliver that.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has made gaining control over Britain’s borders and immigration policy a key red line for the U.K. after Brexit, declaring it more important than remaining inside the EU’s single market. She is seeking to allay public concerns over historically high levels of net migration in recent years, which was a key issue for supporters of “Leave”’ in the Brexit referendum campaign.

Official government figures showed net migration to the U.K. fell to 273,000 in the year through September -- its lowest level in more than two years, and down from a near record-high 335,000 before the June vote.

As a former home secretary, May knows how difficult it can be to control migration but is determined to deliver on what she sees as a defining issue for voters. “My office is working on a range of options and one of the first things we’re going to do is a consultation,” Rudd said. “We hope to do it over the summer.”

Rudd declined to comment in detail on the reforms under consideration after The Sunday Times newspaper cited unnamed officials as saying ministers were planning a work-visa regime for new arrivals from the EU.

“We will be ending freedom of movement as we know it -- otherwise we are looking at all sorts of different alternatives,” Rudd said.

May is due to trigger the start of the formal Brexit negotiating period under Article 50 of the EU treaty in March. Rudd said the premier wanted an early agreement on guaranteeing the residency rights of EU citizens living in the U.K., with reciprocal assurance for British nationals living in other European countries.

Lords Clash

The fate of EU citizens living in Britain is likely to be a flash-point in the U.K. Parliament this week, when members of the un-elected House of Lords scrutinize May’s Brexit trigger draft law. Opposition legislators are seeking support from rebels in May’s Conservative Party for an amendment to the bill to guarantee the residency rights of EU citizens already in Britain.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he’s fighting to protect EU citizens’ rights but his ability to orchestrate opposition is being hampered by his own troubles. He faced fresh calls from Labour supporters to resign after his party’s historic defeat in a special Parliamentary election for the seat of Copeland, in northwest England, last week.

“The result in Copeland was deeply disappointing, and of course I take my share of responsibility for it,” Corbyn told Labour’s Scottish conference on Sunday, as he appealed for unity. “Now is not the time to give up.”

Reversing Brexit

Another amendment to be debated in the House of Lords would give Parliament a binding vote on May’s final Brexit deal. Among Tories planning to support the move is Michael Heseltine, who served in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet.

If public opinion turns against Brexit over the next two years of negotiations, then Parliament must have “the means to reflect that, whether by election, referendum or rethink,” Heseltine wrote in The Mail on Sunday newspaper.

May’s draft law aims to give her the legal authority to trigger Article 50, firing the starting gun on Brexit negotiations that will last as long as two years. The premier’s team is adamant that the bill must be passed without amendments in order to give her as much flexibility in the talks as possible. Rudd warned on Sunday that there’s no possibility of a government compromise.

(Updates with Brexit law debate starting in paragraph nine.)
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