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Immigration announcements in the Queen’s Speech


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An “Immigration Bill ending free movement” got top billing in the the Queen’s Speech this morning. The speech, outlining the government’s plans for new laws, said as follows:

An immigration bill, ending free movement, will lay the foundation for a fair, modern and global immigration system. My Government remains committed to ensuring that resident European citizens, who have built their lives in, and contributed so much to, the United Kingdom, have the right to remain. The bill will include measures that reinforce this commitment.

The more detailed background notes show that the proposed bill is similar to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill published in December 2018, but with some added elements. The bits that appear to be new are highlighted in bold below:

The main elements of the Bill are:

  • Ending the free movement of EU citizens under UK law.
  • The power to align the treatment of EU citizens arriving after January 2021 with non-EU citizens, and to maintain the treatment of EU citizens resident in the UK before exit day.
  • Clarifying the immigration status of Irish citizens in the UK once the free movement rules are removed from UK law.
  • Confirming the deadline for applications to be made under the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • Giving EU citizens and their family members who apply a right of appeal against EU Settlement Scheme decisions.
  • The power to make changes to the current rules for access to benefits and social security coordination for EU nationals.

A right of appeal for EU citizens denied settled status would certainly be welcome. At the moment the only real remedy is administrative review

The Bill is also said to be “paving the way for a new points-based immigration system” (no eye-rolling at the back, please). Priti Patel told the Mail on Sunday over the weekend that migrants will be incentivised to work outside London and the South-East under this system.

The government separately plans to legislate for tougher sentences for foreign criminals who re-enter the UK in breach of a deportation order. A Foreign National Offenders Bill would “increas[e] the maximum penalty for foreign national offenders who return to the UK in breach of a deportation order”. The briefing does not say by how much, or whether this is really a big problem.

Finally, a Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill is planned to put the existing system of compensation for wronged Commonwealth citizens on a statutory footing.

This Queen’s Speech is a bit of a pantomime, in the sense that the government has a majority of minus 43 and almost no chance of passing any of this legislation as things stand. But it is quite possible that a general election in the coming months would see the government gain a majority and press on with the measures announced today.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.