UK Government backs end to special treatment of EU workers after Brexit

Written by Matt Foster on 25 September 2018 in News

The UK Cabinet agreed proposals that will shift the UK's immigration system in favour of highly skilled workers from around the world

Office workers - Image credit: PA Images

Britain's immigration system will stop giving preferential access to European Union citizens after Brexit, ministers have agreed.

The UK Cabinet signed off on proposals tabled by Home Secretary Sajid Javid that will shift the UK's immigration system in favour of highly skilled workers from around the world.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The Cabinet agreed that, once free movement is brought to an end, the Government will be able to introduce a new system which works in the best interests of the UK - including helping boost productivity."

The plans, which would kick in after the UK's "implementation period" with the EU ends in December 2020, were approved despite objections from some Cabinet ministers.

Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark are said to have raised concerns that the new system could cause disruption to businesses if it is introduced suddenly.

Javid meanwhile made clear that the proposals will include some leeway for low-skilled migration to avoid shortages in industries heavily dependent on migrant labour.

The Home Secretary also confirmed that regions that strike a free trade deal with the UK – including the EU itself – could be given preferential access to the UK labour market under the plans.

The proposals are set to be fleshed out in a new immigration white paper in the autumn, and could feature in Theresa May's speech to the Conservative party conference next week.

Cabinet ministers meanwhile stepped back from urging the Prime Minister to ditch her Chequers Brexit plan in favour of a Canada-style free trade deal.

May's proposals, which aim to agree a ‘common rulebook’ with the EU on goods, were ridiculed by her European counterparts at a meeting in Salzburg last week.

But she told the Cabinet to "hold our nerve", at a "critical point" in the talks.

Brexiteers in the Cabinet were reported to be in favour of a Canada-style deal currently being talked up Tory Eurosceptics.

But senior ministers have now given the Prime Minister extra time to try and sell her plan to the EU.

A Cabinet minister told The Sun: "There was a feeling that the PM did well on Friday with her No10 statement on Brexit, and she has earned some breathing space.

"But we are still left with the fact that the EU has said no to Chequers, and that is a problem that is not going to go away.

“So we will have to move on from Chequers if there is no movement from Barnier in two weeks."

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab meanwhile told reporters the Cabinet had had "a good, healthy discussion".

He added: "The Prime Minister made clear we are going to keep our calm and press the EU on some of the criticisms they have made.

“But also to be clear that there are no credible alternatives the EU has come up with."

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