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U.K.’s Immigration Proposal Risks Harming Bid to Stop Cliff-Edge

The draft immigration proposals for post-Brexit Britain outlined in a leaked government document would make it more difficult for the U.K. to secure a transitional period after it leaves the bloc.

The 82-page document, originally obtained by the Guardian, says “free movement will end” as soon as the U.K. leaves the European Union on March 29, 2019.

EU citizens arriving in Britain after Brexit day might be obliged to register if they wanted to stay and would be subjected to stricter rules than currently if they wanted to be joined by non-British family members. The U.K. would distinguish between low-skilled workers, who would be able to stay for two years, and highly skilled workers, who would be allowed to remain longer.

Such a system would run into opposition from the EU. Its governments would probably insist that any interim arrangement that involved the U.K. having access to the single market would need to maintain the bloc’s free movement rules, an EU official with knowledge of the negotiations said.

That means the U.K. probably wouldn’t be able to discriminate between British and EU citizens during that period, and also wouldn’t be allowed to put EU workers into different categories.

Any transition arrangement, designed to soften the blow of departure for companies and investors, needs to be agreed with the EU before the U.K. leaves. While the proposals contained in the Home Office leak don’t necessarily represent the government’s final position, they show that agreeing a deal to avoid a cliff-edge is far from certain.

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