Immigration Implications Of Indicative Votes


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Summary

Parliament are conducting further indicative votes today. The immigration implications of the four options are outlined below. As long as the UK leaves the EU and EEA it should be able to assert sovereign control over immigration although pressure for concessions might arise in future trade negotiations. (see our paper).

Customs union

Enshrines in primary legislation the aim of establishing a customs union with the EU to help solve the Irish border issue. This would have no direct impact on immigration but the EU would likely make demands for bilateral liberal migration arrangements to be included in the course of negotiations on the establishment of a customs union.

Common market 2.0

Proposes UK membership of EFTA and the EEA and a commitment to a temporary customs union until alternative arrangements can be made establishing frictionless movement of goods across an open border with Ireland. Remaining in the EEA means free movement of people would continue. Technically, safeguard measures stipulated in Articles 112-113 of the EEA Treaty would allow the UK to enact an emergency brake mechanism to slow or halt the inflow of EU workers, but in practice this can only be used for a temporary period, is of very limited efficacy and its implementation and continuation must be agreed upon by an EEA arbitration committee. There is also the possibility that deploying the brake would result in reprisal measures by the EU. See our paper on Norway which is party to the EEA Treaty.

Confirmatory public vote

Prevents the government implementing or ratifying the withdrawal agreement unless it has been approved in a referendum. The immigration impact would depend on the outcome of the referendum. If this referendum endorsed the original outcome, the immigration consequences would depend on the content of the agreement. If that agreement is the PM’s deal as it currently stands, the government’s negotiating position would be so weak that the EU would probably be able to extract significant immigration concessions in return for trade arrangements.

Parliamentary supremacy

Stipulates that there must be a vote on ‘no deal’ in the event that no withdrawal agreement is agreed upon. If ‘no deal’ is rejected then the government will be obligated to revoke Article 50. Multiple possible outcomes with regard to immigration. No deal will allow any EU citizen who arrive in the UK within three years of Brexit to obtain temporary leave to remain for a period of up to three years. The government’s white paper proposals would be expected to be implemented from autumn 2020 onwards.

1st April 2019

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