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UK backtracks on decision to end free movement after Brexit

After earlier plans to end free movement of EU nationals into the U.K immediately after Brexit, the government has now backtracked on the decision. Plans to end rather than restrict freedom of movement by 31 October were proposed by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. The planned policy shift was expected to be completed through a secondary legislation process before the Brexit deadline. It would have seen the implementation of new border controls as part of immigration reforms under Boris Johnson.

Patel’s move sparked outrage and wide criticisms from various factions who termed it as a potential cause of unending disruptions in the region. The scrapping of the plan came after the intervention of lawyers who advised the government against it. The lawyers warned of consequences and legal actions against ministers that may arise from ending freedom of movement. They cited numerous loopholes of imposing the law change without allowing MPs to vote. The move, they say, could have led to ministers being taken to court with high chances of losing the case.

The U.K. government is expected to adopt a different approach that would involve an incremental or gradual change of law. When passed, the new plan will require EU nationals to be holders of full passports. The method will spell an end to the previous one where identification cards were sufficient to warrant admission of EU citizens to the U.K. According to the Home Office, the strategy will also significantly reduce the incarceration of illegal migrants who have often found a way to enter Britain.

The wholesale changes in immigration systems and policies will have to take longer than earlier planned by the government. Politicians and experts have lauded the latest announcement. They had previously given Patel’s proposal a wide berth as they felt rushing it with Brexit would have led to many mistakes. U.K. employers have also welcomed the move to delay implementation of the policy beyond the Brexit date. The delay would give them time to prepare for new changes as they seek to absorb compliant EU citizens. Additionally, early migrants who came to the U.K. before the new immigration policy will have adequate time to be compliant before the implementation of the restrictions.


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