Leaked paper reveals plans to restrict immigration of low-skilled EU nationals

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Proposals for new restrictions to cut numbers of low-skilled migrants from Europe following Brexit have been revealed in a leaked Home Office paper.

The 82-page document, obtained by The Guardian, suggests that new arrangements would be immediately introduced at the point the UK finally leaves the EU at the end of a transition period lasting at least two years.

Departure from the EU will mean "the end of rights-based, unconditional free movement", with the Government adopting powers to take "a more selective approach" to which migrants will be allowed to work and settle in the UK.

Home Office
(Rick Findler/PA)

It is understood that the document - marked "Official Sensitive" - is a draft version of an upcoming White Paper which has been circulated among senior officials and politicians but has not been agreed by ministers.

It is described as "a platform for discussion".

"The Government will take a view on the economic and social needs of the country as regards EU migration, rather than leaving this decision entirely to those wishing to come here and employers," it states.

This could involve requiring EU nationals to seek permission before taking up a job, making employers recruit locally first or restrict access to lower-skilled occupations which are not experiencing staffing shortages, the document suggests.

UK and EU flags
(Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Guardian quoted the document as saying: "Put plainly, this means that, to be considered valuable to the country as a whole, immigration should benefit not just the migrants themselves but also make existing residents better off."

The leaked paper makes clear that the Government's handling of post-Brexit migration will continue to be driven by the aim of reducing net immigration to "sustainable" levels, previously defined by Prime Minister Theresa May as below 100,000 a year.

Wherever possible, UK employers should "look to meet their labour needs from resident labour", it suggests.

Among proposals floated to cut numbers of lower-skilled migrants are a restriction to two years' residency, compared to work permits for a longer period of three to five years for those in high-skilled occupations.

It is not envisaged that EU citizens would be required to apply for permission to visit the UK for tourism, family visits and short business trips or be given stamps in their passports on arrival.

A Border Force officer checking passports
(Steve Parsons/PA)

But they will have to show passports, rather than using a national identity card, to enter the country.

Under the document's proposals, those on longer stays would have to register with the authorities and may be required to provide fingerprints and proof of employment, self-sufficiency or study status.

The right to bring family members into the country could be tightened to only the most direct relatives like partners, spouses and children, and there could be an unspecified "income threshold" for EU citizens to show they can support themselves while in the UK.

A Government spokesman said: "We do not comment on leaked draft documents.

"We will be setting out our initial proposals for a new immigration system which takes back control of the UK's borders later in the autumn."