The Home Office has confirmed it will put in temporary immigration arrangements for EU nationals after a no-deal Brexit, in an admission that it will not be ready to end freedom of movement immediately.
The department said that EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who move to the UK between 1 November and the end of 2020 will be allowed to stay in this country for up to three years under what it is calling the European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme, or Euro-TLR.
There had been speculation that plans for the Euro-TLR would be scrapped, after briefings that home secretary Priti Patel was seeking an immediate end to freedom of movement on 1 November if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.
However, new guidance confirms freedom of movement will not end until an overhaul of the immigration system at the start of 2021.
The Home Office guidance published today said that although there will be “some visible changes at the UK border” and tougher restrictions on convicted criminals coming into the country, “otherwise EU citizens will be able to cross the UK border as now”.
Applications for temporary leave to remain will be “simple and free” and will be made after arrival in the UK, it says. “There will be no need for EU citizens travelling to the UK after Brexit to make any special arrangements,” it adds.
The department said entry to the UK would be subject to “tougher UK criminality thresholds at the border”, and that EU citizens convicted of serious crimes in the UK would be deported.
EU citizens will need to go through the same customs checks as other international travellers at the border, with fast-track entry lanes being abolished.
But until the end of 2020, both EU citizens who have obtained settled or pre-settled status and those with Euro-TLR will retain the same rights to live and work in the UK as they do now.
“Employers and landlords will not be required to distinguish between EU citizens who arrived before and after exit until the future immigration system is introduced from 2021,” the Home Office said.
Irish citizens' rights will remain unchanged.
In a statement, Patel said the measure represented an end to freedom of movement “as it currently stands”.
“In the future, we will introduce a new points-based immigration system built around the skills and talent people have – not where they are from,” she said.
Work to develop a points-based system – based on the Australian immigration regime – began only this week. On Monday, Patel commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct a review into a how awarding prospective immigrants “points” for attributes such as qualifications, English proficiency and work experience to prospective migrants could add “additional flexibility” to the UK visa regime.