Possible plans for the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system have been revealed in a leaked Home Office document. Hayden Smith, the Press Association’s home affairs correspondent examines the details, and the reaction

The leaked documents sparked alarm in some quarters today, with the Government being accused of failing to recognise the benefits of EU migrant workers to industry in the UK.

Although it is understood that the document is a draft version of an upcoming white paper which has not been agreed by ministers and does not reflect the Government’s final position, representatives of several industry sectors spoke out against the blueprint.

Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union, said an abrupt cut in migrant workers from the EU after Brexit would cause “massive disruption”.

She urged the Government to give a clear commitment on the movement issue soon, describing access to both seasonal and permanent workers as “absolutely critical” for the agricultural industry.

“A competent and reliable workforce is vital for British farms to be a dependable source of raw ingredients for the UK food and drink manufacturing sector, worth £108 billion,” she said.

“Statistics show that horticulture alone requires 80,000 seasonal workers a year to plant, pick, grade and pack over nine million tonnes and 300 types of fruit, vegetable and flower crops in Britain every year.”

Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), added: “If this does represent the Government’s thinking it shows a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU migrant workers make – at all skill levels – across the food chain.”

THE most eye-catching proposals in the draft blueprint are new curbs on EU migrant labour, in particular those coming to take up low-skilled jobs.

The document, which makes clear that the rules are not yet decided, floats the idea of restricting access to occupations that do not have a shortage of employees.

It suggests the number of EU citizens able to come to the UK for low-skilled work could be limited by a salary threshold, an assessment of the skill level of the occupation, or a direct cap on numbers.

A scheme for temporary or seasonal workers could be introduced, while employers may need to complete an “economic needs test” to check whether suitable recruits can be found locally before hiring an EU migrant.

Those in highly skilled roles who have a contract of more than 12 months could be given a residence permit lasting three to five years, with two years for other occupations.

The bulk of any new restrictions would not fully take effect until after an implementation period of at least two years.

THE paper also sets out possible new rules for family members of EU citizens. These could be modelled on a current regime which says UK citizens, or non-EU nationals, who wish to be joined by non-European dependants have to earn at least £18,600 a year.

The draft emphasises that the Government “welcomes and encourages” EU students and does not wish to restrict their access “per se”, but it adds some restrictions may be necessary.

EU citizens coming as tourists, on short-term business trips or visits to friends and family would be able to enter the UK without needing permission.

The paper says the starting point will be that permission to enter the UK will be conferred automatically for EU nationals. It is envisaged they would have to show a passport rather than an ID card, while a new electronic pre-clearance system could be introduced.

EU citizens coming to the UK during the post-Brexit implementation period would be able to work or study for the first few months without prior permission from the Home Office.

Those staying longer would need to register for a residence permit by showing proof of employment, study or self-sufficiency. Applicants’ fingerprints could also be taken.

The paper sets out an intention to provide a route to settle in the UK for those coming to work in highly skilled occupations and their dependants.

This could be granted after five years’ continuous residence. Views will be sought on the settlement rights for other EU citizens.