'Doors will close for Brits in EU': Why the UK's post-Brexit immigration plan has sparked alarm
It's fair to say the UK government's planned new post-Brexit immigration system - with its language requirements and minimum salary levels for EU migrants - has sparked worry among British groups in Europe.
The UK government announced its planned new immigration system this week and it immediately sparked concern for the future of those Britons who want to move to the EU in future.
The new points-based system to replace the freedom of movement which allowed EU nationals to move to freely to the UK will be implemented once the Brexit transition period comes to an end. That date is currently set for December 31st 2020, but it may be pushed back.
While Britons currently living in the EU and those who move before the end of the transition period are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, it is unclear what the rules will be for future generations, although they will become third-country nationals.
But how easy it will be for Brits to move to France, Italy or Spain in future could depend on what kind of system the UK puts in place after Brexit, which is why many are concerned. Brits living in Europe now could face tough choices in the future and those hoping to move to the EU could find doors are closed.
The UK government said this week it wanted to take "full control" of its borders by installing an Australian-style points-based system, that would effectively close the doors to unskilled EU workers as well as those who can't speak English to the required standard.
In a statement the government said: "These new arrangements will take effect from January 1st 2021, once freedom of movement with the European Union (EU) has ended. It will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy.
"The points-based system will include a route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor.
"From January 2021, the job you’re offered will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level). You’ll also need to be able to speak English. The minimum general salary threshold will be reduced to £25,600.
And the government adds that there'll be no "immigration route specifically for low-skilled workers" or indeed for the self-employed.
There will also be language restrictions for students.
"Student visa routes will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.
"You’ll be able to apply for a visa to study in the UK if you: have been offered a place on a course, can speak, read, write and understand English and have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course."
While the plans are for migrants heading to the UK, the strict rules are understandably a cause for concern for those British nationals who may want to move the other way in future or indeed move back to Britain with their EU partners.
Kalba Meadows from British in Europe told The Local that Brits living in Europe may be forced into a tough choice in future.
"For British nationals living in the EU with non British spouses or partners, it will effectively close off the possibility in future of returning to the UK to live unless they choose to leave their partner behind.
"What if they have elderly parents in the UK who need their care ... do they really have to choose between partner and parents?"
While nothing has been announced by EU member states there are fears countries will follow the principle of reciprocity and it will therefore become much harder to move to the EU.
"It's inevitable that there will be knock on-effects of reciprocity," said Meadows.
"We can expect British people wanting to move to France or other EU countries in future to have a much harder time of things.
"So many of us have moved to France, for example, over the last few years to start small businesses ... with the UK now closing its doors to anyone wanting to be self-employed we might expect that door to be - if not closed completely to us - become decidedly sticky and difficult to open."
Michael Harris from Eurocitizens in Spain said: "If Britain does decide to stop any freedom of movement from the EU after 01/01/21, this will obviously be reciprocal for Britons in the UK wanting to move to the EU - and there is very little we can do to stop it."
Harris also points that the UK's stance will make it far less likely for the EU to agree to granting Brits already in the EU onward freedom of movement, which effectively landlocks Brits in the country they are in.
British in Europe's Fiona Godfrey added: "This will have repercussions for UK nationals already living in the EU. We are still waiting for some countries to decide how they will register us under the Withdrawal Agreement and this probably won’t help persuade them to choose the declaratory option rather than the re-registration option.
The withdrawal agreement covers British people already living in the EU. But yes, if EU countries were to reciprocate, it would reduce future UK to EU migration enormously.— Heather ?️ ?? ?? ??#FBPE #The5Million (@FranceMadeEasy) February 18, 2020
Unfortunately this will also probably mean the Brits can’t work in the EU if arrangements are reciprocal. How many of us really speak languages? We rely on English being fairly universal.— Fiona Harrison (@fionahtweet) February 19, 2020
Imagine the outrage if Spain and France said all brits had to speak Spanish and French beige they migrate. It takes great skill to learn another language and the vast majority do.— Bruce banner (@HEY1931) February 19, 2020
Over the coming months EU governments are due to announce their own criteria for post-Brexit immigration.
Given the UK's planned system, it is no wonder so many Britons are reportedly rushing to move to the EU before the end of the transition period.