Industry chiefs have called for clarity after government officials appeared to turn their back on Theresa May’s commitment to transition into a new immigration system.
Under May’s government, the rules that allow the free movement of people around the European Union were expected to stay in force for an additional two years, allowing a transition into a new, more restricted system to be decided in Westminster.
However Boris Johnson’s government has since argued that, if a deal can not be brokered between the European Union and the UK before the Brexit deadline of 31 October, freedom of movement will abruptly end.
It is understood the Home Secretary Priti Patel has urged for the closure of the nation’s borders when the clock strikes midnight, potentially leading to confusion for EU residents and those already planning to enter the country.
Of the three million EU citizens living in the UK, it is believed roughly a third have applied for settled status classification, allowing them to remain in the country with no changes to their legal rights.
It is currently unclear what system will be implemented in the UK once freedom of movement ends. However in response to the potential end of the free movement policy, a government spokesperson reiterated the Prime Minister’s previous commitment to an “Australian-style points-based system” that is likely to favour higher earning, skilled labour.
Kate Nicholls, CEO of trade body UKHospitality, warned uncertainty over immigration rules could cause problems for the sector, signalling that hospitality businesses would be better served by a slow implementation process similar to that agreed by Johnson’s predecessor.
She said: “The government has taken great steps to safeguard the rights of those EU citizens in the UK ahead of Brexit. Although the majority of staff in the sector are home-grown, businesses do need to look to overseas talent to augment their teams.
“We now need more certainty for those that come to the country from 1st November until a new immigration policy is in place. A situation akin to the implementation period would be welcomed by business. We would urge Government to share their proposals on the status of EU citizens after Brexit and reiterate their guarantees to current EU citizens.”