Conflicting immigration policies being floated by ministers are not just unworkable, they risk causing economic chaos
In Boris Johnson’s first speech to parliament four weeks ago, he made an unambiguous vow to the 3.2 million EU citizens living in the UK. Thanking them for their contribution to British society, the new prime minister assured EU citizens that under his government they would have the “absolute certainty” of their rights being protected. But a string of reports in the past week has led to increasing alarm among individuals and employers that this promise is in now in doubt. This risks sparking confusion and disarray in the run-up to 31 October.
The muddle arises from reports that home secretary Priti Patel has been pressing for an immediate end to free movement in the event of no deal. This appears to mark a significant shift in policy. Until now, the government has said that in a no-deal scenario, EU citizens will generally continue to be able to come to the UK to live and work until the introduction of a new system in January 2021. While their legal status will change, in practice the main difference is that they will have to apply for European temporary leave to remain for stays of more than three months. Given this status is freely open to all EU citizens, provided they pass certain criminality checks, a version of freedom of movement will in effect continue for at least another year.
Read more: theguardian.com