Migrants from the EU will have to speak English and have a job offer under sweeping reforms to end Britain’s reliance on cheap European labour.
The measures are part of the biggest shake-up to border rules since this country joined the Common Market in 1973.
Low-skilled immigration will be made virtually impossible under a points-based system as free movement rights are consigned to history.
Instead, EU migrants’ chances of getting a work visa will be the same as for applicants from elsewhere.
They will need at least 70 points to work in Britain, with points awarded for speaking English, if the job earns a salary above £25,600 and if it is at a certain skill level.
Last night, Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured) said she had listened to the ‘clear message’ from the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2019 General Election that the public wanted ‘a reduction in low-skilled immigration’
Highly skilled workers – such as scientists – will be able to come without a job offer as the Government re-aligns the immigration system to the ‘brightest and the best’. But there will be no general visas for low-skilled migrants.
Last night, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had listened to the ‘clear message’ from the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2019 General Election that the public wanted ‘a reduction in low-skilled immigration’.
‘Today we set out our historic blueprint for taking back control of our borders,’ she said. ‘It is the biggest shake-up of our immigration system in a generation and is what the public rightly demand.’
Home Office officials warned that businesses would have to wean themselves off cheap labour from the Continent.
Instead, employers will be encouraged to recruit from Britain’s pool of 1.3million unemployed, or pay higher wages to ensure they retain existing staff.
However, there was an immediate backlash last night with some industry leaders warning that the plans spelled ‘absolute disaster’ for the care system, and for farmers, builders and the hospitality sector.
The announcement also opens up the prospect of a rush of EU migrants coming to Britain by the end of the year.
They will need at least 70 points to work in Britain, with points awarded for speaking English, if the job earns a salary above £25,600 and if it is at a certain skill level
Any EU citizens living in Britain by New Year’s Eve will be entitled to live and work here under current rules. The reforms, which will come into force in January, will:
- Limit EU nationals without a visa to a maximum of six months in Britain;
- Bar all new migrants, including Europeans, from claiming income-related benefits;
- Allow EU travellers to carry on using the current ‘UK and EU’ e-gates at ports and airports – although this will be ‘kept under review’;
- Force all migrants, including those from the EU, who come here to work to pay towards the NHS – currently set at £400 a year;
- Exclude more Europeans who have criminal records;
- Phase out ‘insecure’ EU identity cards being used as travel documents.
The reforms will sweep away rights to work in Britain which date back to 1973 for nationals from countries such as France, Germany and Italy.
All migrants will have to earn at least £25,600 a year and must hold an offer for a job which meets the ‘skills test’ equivalent to A-levels.
The minimum salary is flexible, however, and an applicant could be set to earn as little as £20,480 a year if they meet other criteria – such as filling a job where there are shortages, such as nursing.
All successful migrants will still be able to bring dependants such as spouses and children with them.
The Home Secretary said: ‘We will choose who comes here based on the skills they can offer, to benefit the whole of the UK. They must speak English – so they integrate in our communities’
The existing agricultural worker scheme will be quadrupled to 10,000 a year to bring in temporary foreign workers at harvest-time.
The Home Secretary said: ‘We will choose who comes here based on the skills they can offer, to benefit the whole of the UK. They must speak English – so they integrate in our communities.
‘They must have a job offer – so they make a genuine contribution to our country. They must be paid a salary that does not undercut local workers and ensures they can support themselves.’
A policy paper published by the Home Office today does not set out the price of an application under the new system – but currently a five-year visa costs about £1,200.
One Whitehall source said: ‘Businesses are going to have to invest in workforces. There is an unemployment pool in the UK. If they are not able to attract people they are going to have to look at automation or improve conditions.’
Last night, Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said: ‘It’s all very well saying we have to ‘grow more of our own’ care workers but it’s older people and their families who will suffer if a care company can’t come to their aid because there aren’t enough staff.’
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said the plans ‘spell absolute disaster’ for the care sector.
Carolyn Fairbairn, of the Confederation of British Industry, said parts of the new system would be welcomed by business but ‘in some sectors firms will be left wondering how they will recruit’.