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Brexit: the draft withdrawal bill and immigration

The ongoing Brexit negotiations have, two-and-a-half years after the referendum, finally produced a draft agreement for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

However, the 585-page document is not without its opponents. It has already caused mass resignations from the Conservative government and will doubtlessly be debated over and argued about in the coming months.

Of course, one of the main areas covered in the draft agreement is UK immigration and the rights of both foreign nationals living in the UK, and British citizens abroad.

The British and EU negotiators have tentatively agreed that free movement of people into the UK will end and be replaced by a “skills-based” immigration system. This will make it harder, but not impossible, to obtain a UK visa. As had already been established by earlier negotiations, EU nationals who have lived in the UK for five years (and vice versa) will be able to remain living where they are with their families and also retain the same rights as before. Crucially, however, they will have to reapply for their right to remain.

As with all aspects of how Brexit will manifest itself in real terms, even these agreements are shrouded in uncertainty. Given the vehement opposition to this draft agreement, including from Dominic Raab, the government minister in charge of negotiating the agreement; it’s not difficult to foresee the terms changing again in the coming months. His replacement in the post, Steven Barclay, is something of an unknown quantity in mainstream politics and at the moment many are unsure of the moves he’ll make.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s statement on the bill was also noteworthy. She described the options for the UK as either accepting the draft, having no deal or “no Brexit”. This is the first time the PM has put the matter forward as a choice. However, with a vote of no confidence in her looking more likely, this is again subject to change.


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