On Thursday this week, the UK will head to the polls; the first December general election since 1923. MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a December general election – a move seen to hopefully overcome the Brexit impasse.
It’s no secret that immigration policy is often a controversial political topic and that notion doesn’t appear to be diminishing with the upcoming election. In fact, the public’s perception on immigration policy will certainly be a key factor in determining the outcome of the general election.
All political parties have been busy with their election campaigns and have now published their policy manifestos which details their plans for the UK’s new immigration system. A study of each party’s manifesto suggests there will be a turning point in the UK’s migration policy. Each party indicates reform of the current immigration system and Brexit provides the ideal platform for such reform.
Below is a summary of each party’s position on immigration policy:
- Primary message to ‘Get Brexit Done’ – ending freedom of movement and bringing ‘overall numbers down’ – this appears to be an abandonment to Theresa May’s stance of ‘reducing net migration to the tens of thousands annually’.
- Implement an Australian-style points-based immigration system for all migrants (EU and non-EU) which is likely to include the requirements to speak English, strong qualifications and have a clear job offer in the UK.
- Introduction of a ‘Graduate Visa’ (similar to previous Post-Study Work visa) which will allow overseas students to work in the UK for up to two years post-graduation.
- No access to benefits for EU nationals until they have been resident for five years bringing them in line with non-EEA nationals. Stopping claims for child benefit for children living overseas.
- Increasing the fee of the Immigration Health Surcharge.
- Induction of a dedicated ‘NHS visa’ for qualified doctors, nurses and other medics with an NHS job offer designed to be cheaper and faster than other immigration routes.
- Implement an immigration system which is capable of ‘filling any skills or labour shortages that rise.’
- On the key election issue of Brexit, the Labour party states they will negotiate and secure a new deal with the EU and then put it to a legally binding referendum alongside the option of remaining in the EU.
- Scrapping the 2014 Immigration Act which made it harder for people living in the UK illegally to access public services, tenancies and bank accounts. It is also the same legislation which introduced the NHS Surcharge and, some say, created the ‘hostile environment’.
- Compensate migrants who suffered as a consequence of the Windrush scandal.
- On Brexit, if the party is elected with a majority government, they will revoke article 50 and stop Brexit.
- Put an end to the Conservative’s ‘hostile environment’.
- Move policy making on work permits and student visas out of the Home Office and into the Departments for Business and Education.
- Replace Tier 2 work visas with a more ‘flexible merit-based’ system.
- Create a two-year visa for students allowing them to work after graduation.
- Abolish the minimum income requirement for spouse and partner visas.
Scottish National Party
- Propose a new referendum on Scotland’s independence.
- Seek the devolution of immigration powers allowing Scotland to control their own immigration system which works for their economy and society.
- Oppose the Immigration Skills Charge.
- Review the citizenship application process with a view to bringing down the cost and reducing the complexity.
- Repeal the minimum income requirement for family visas.
- An additional route for migration to Scotland by means of a ‘Scottish Visa’.