Immigration was certainly one of the central issues leading to the Brexit vote. But how exactly will Brexit actually affect immigration policy?
Those that voted to leave the EU posed too-open immigration policies as one of their main complaints. In the last two decades, UK immigration has soared and many are not happy about it.
In 1997, Prime Minister David Cameron initiated an immigration transformation that resulted in nearly twice as many immigrants arriving in the United Kingdom as the previous half-century, stated an article in Slate magazine.
This transformation, coupled with the open border policies of the EU, led to anxiety among many British citizens and eventually a call for more control on immigration. Extremists even called for a complete immigration stop. The recent Brexit vote solidified this call for more control and now the country is held accountable for making change.
But what exactly will that change look like? As of now, it’s unclear.
In the near future, the open-border policies of the EU are likely to be limited with the UK’s exit. Citizens of certain EU countries are allowed to travel passport-free between countries and, in some cases, are allowed to work with limited restriction. Restrictions on EU citizens’ travel and right to work are likely to tighten.
As for general immigration policies, there is only speculation at this point.
“I think you would see a shift toward more qualifications, higher-income, higher-skilled workers,” said Will Somerville, the UK senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, as reported by The Atlantic. “And you’d see an overall reduction in the numbers coming from Europe,” especially from places such as Poland and Romania, where workers tend to be younger, less experienced, possessed of fewer qualifications, and, consequently, earn less.
The UK’s new Prime Minister Theresa May is a declared strong conservative when it comes to immigration and has promised to reduce net migration substantially.
“When immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society,” she said in one 2015 speech. “It’s difficult for schools and hospitals and core infrastructure like housing and transport to cope. And we know that for people in low-paid jobs, wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether.”
While data shows this to be inaccurate, it hasn’t stopped May from taking extreme steps to lower immigration. If May is the leader of policy change — restriction is happening and in a big way.
One of her most controversial policies is aimed at reducing immigration from outside the EU. The new rule barres British citizens from bringing spouses and children to Britain unless they earned more than £18,600, regardless of how much their non-British spouse earned. This rule is currently being challenged in the supreme court.
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