Government issues response to Home Affairs Committee report on immigration
The UK government has issued its response to the Home Affairs Committee’s report ‘Immigration policy: basis for building consensus’.
Following Brexit, the committee set about reshaping the debate on immigration in light of the new landscape which lies ahead for the country. Among the recommendations of ‘Immigration policy: basis for building consensus’ were that; immigration policy should be informed by honest and open debate and supported by evidence; fair and clear rules need to be properly enforced; there should be different approaches for different types of immigration; immigration should work for the economic and social interests of the UK and its citizens; and action is needed to address the impact of immigration on local communities.
The government has now issued a series of replies to the recommendations as part of its response. It has underlined a belief that the number of student visas issued each year should be uncapped, reinforcing the UK’s status as the second most popular destination for overseas students. In response to fears that the demand for agricultural workers could struggle to be met, the government has highlighted the fact that despite Brexit, 100,000 more agricultural workers from EU countries came to work in the UK last year, and that they will still be permitted to do so until 2020 under the Implementation Period – by that time the government hopes that it will have negotiated terms which do not threaten the agricultural workforce at large.
Included in the response is a commitment “to reduce the number of outstanding asylum decisions and the length of time people wait for a decision”, in which the Next Generation Casework programme will play a part. The government also did not accept the committee’s assertion that more long-term immigration should be encouraged in order to promote greater integration with UK society as a whole, explaining that “such an approach would rightly concern the public. Settlement rights are restricted to certain routes, notably family migration, refugees and highly-skilled work.”
Detailing its overarching immigration objectives, the government outlined its continued commitment to reducing net migration to “tens of thousands”.
Overall, it looks at this stage as if Brexit has not convinced the government to open a significantly higher number of immigration routes into the UK, despite concerns over a diminished workforce. It appears possible that the government is waiting to see how Brexit negotiations play out before offering more immigration opportunities.