EU migration falls to lowest level since 2013 amid Brexit uncertainty

Immigration to the UK from the EU has slid to its lowest levels since 2013, according to official estimates.

EU immigration for the year ending March 2019 was estimated to be 200,000.

Immigration experts said it showed the UK was continuing to be less attractive for EU nationals.

Immigration Minister Seema Kennedy said the statistics showed “highly skilled workers continue to be attracted to the UK”.

The Office For National Statistics (ONS) has admitted to underestimating some EU net migration data since 2016, meaning it is calling the figures experimental estimates.

Brexit uncertainty

'There are, however, still more EU citizens moving to the UK than leaving, mainly for work' (Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire)
‘There are, however, still more EU citizens moving to the UK than leaving, mainly for work’ (Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire)

Madeleine Sumption, director of the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory, said: “The drop in the value of sterling has made working in the UK less lucrative than it once was, and continued uncertainty about the Brexit may also have played a role.

“The picture is different for non-EU nationals, though. Non-EU students and skilled workers have continued to migrate to the UK more or less as before.

She added: “ONS has improved its methods for estimating migration patterns, which is why some of the figures have been revised.

“This means the statistics are now likely to be more robust than they were in the last few years. But it’s still very much a work in progress.

“The new figures will probably be revised again, which is one reason they have been reclassified as experimental statistics rather than the highest quality national statistics.”

Net migration

Jay Lindop, director of the ONS Centre for International Migration, said: “Our best assessment using all data sources is that long-term international migration continues to add to the UK population.

“The level has been broadly stable since 2016 but there are different patterns for EU and non-EU citizens. Using the data sources available to us, we can see that EU immigration is falling.

“There are, however, still more EU citizens moving to the UK than leaving, mainly for work… In contrast, non-EU immigration has stabilised over the last year, after gradual increases since 2013.”

The 200,000 figure is the lowest since the year ending June 2013 when it was an estimated 183,000.

Net migration has remained broadly the same since the end of 2016, according to the ONS.

Additional reporting from Press Association.

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UK government yet to commission Australian migration system review

A month after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to commission a report into Australia’s points-based migration system, he still hasn’t done so, according to the independent committee that would be charged with conducting the review.

“For years, politicians have promised the public an Australian-style points based system,” Johnson said on July 25 in his first speech to the British parliament after replacing Theresa May as PM. “And today I will actually deliver on those promises — I will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct a review of that system as the first step in a radical rewriting of our immigration system.”

But the committee said Johnson’s government has yet to request the review.

“At present we have not received the commission to look at an Australian points-based system for the U.K.,” a Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) official said. “We look forward to receiving more detail on the commission in due course.”

According to the MAC official, it could take about six months to produce a report, though the actual timing would depend on the details of the commission itself.

“I don’t know if they’re going to give us this [commission] separately or as a sort of light-touch one as part of another commission. That’s what we’re waiting for at the moment — whether it’s going to be a real in-depth one, or an initial look and then an in-depth one later,” the official said. “I can’t give you more information at the moment because we’re not sure ourselves.”

Speculation about the commission “stemmed from just a comment [Johnson] made in parliament,” the official continued. “It’s much more work than just saying that and then expecting the answers, isn’t it?”

A No. 10 spokesperson said: “The PM has instructed the Home Office to task the MAC,” and “they will be actioning this in due course.”

A Home Office spokesperson said that Johnson has “set out this government’s ambitious vision for a new immigration system that is open to the world and brings the brightest and best to the U.K.”

“As part of this, the home secretary will shortly commission the independent Migration Advisory Committee to review the Australian-style points-based system,” the spokesperson added.

Earlier this month, a spokeswoman for the prime minister said Johnson’s post-Brexit immigration plan is still “being developed” but insisted that freedom of movement “will end” on October 31, when the U.K. is due to leave the EU. “The prime minister has obviously been clear he wants to introduce an Australian-style points base immigration system,” the spokeswoman added at the time.

Johnson backed the points-based system when he led the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum, and has repeatedly said he wanted to introduce the system in the U.K. after Brexit.

Emilio Casalicchio contributed reporting.

This article has been updated with a response from a Home Office spokesperson.

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EU migration to UK sinks to lowest level since 2013

LONDON — EU migration to the United Kingdom has fallen to its lowest level in six years, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In the year ending March 2019, 200,000 EU citizens were estimated to have moved to the U.K., the ONS said Thursday. The number of EU citizens arriving in the U.K. has fallen continually since 2016, the year the country voted for Brexit.

This is the lowest figure since the year ending June 2013, when it was an estimated 183,000. The ONS said the recent drop was mostly due to a decline in people moving to the U.K. for work.

Only about 59,000 more EU nationals arrived than left in the year ending March 2019, the ONS said. In the year ending June 2016, EU net migration to the UK stood at 189,000.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said free movement of people from the EU “will end” on October 31.

Matthew Fell, chief U.K. policy director at business lobby group CBI, said that the downward trend in EU net migration, combined with record-low unemployment “means that skills shortages are getting worse.”

Overall, about 612,000 people moved to the U.K. in the year ending March 2019, while 385,000 people emigrated, according to the ONS. This leaves total net migration to the U.K. at 226,000.

The data was released one day after the ONS admitted that long-term migration from the EU to the U.K. between 2009 and 2016 had been underestimated by as much as a quarter of a million people.

The ONS acknowledged there was a discrepancy between migration statistics and population statistics, as the former are drawn from the International Passenger Survey, which asks people arriving in the U.K. about their future residency plans.

“Europeans don’t necessarily know what they are going to do, they can change their mind and they don’t need to answer truthfully,” Jonathan Portes, an economist at King’s College London, said.

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Is Patel’s pledge to “end freedom of movement” merely smoke and mirrors?

Priti Patel has stolen at least two days of headlines – far from all of them positive – with the announcement that she intends to end freedom of movement at the very moment of Brexit in the event of No Deal. What is not clear, however, is what exactly this means.

In theory, it means (or at least sounds to casual ears like it means) bringing EU nationals under the UK’s existing visa arrangements for people from the rest of the world. But even the positive write-ups can’t avoid alluding to the fact that such a policy seems impossible to reconcile with the Government’s commitment to giving EU nationals currently resident in Britain up until the end of 2020 to register for so-called ‘settled status’.

Were the Home Office to simultaneously honour this pledge and bring freedom of movement to an immediate end, there would be a period of more than a year when EU nationals eligible for settled status would be theoretically free to move in and out of the UK at will, but EU nationals ineligible for it would not – with no means of distinguishing between the two.

This is why Sajid Javid, Patel’s predecessor, went on the record as saying that an immediate end to freedom of movement was impractical, and called for “some kind of sensible transition period”.

Nowhere in the papers is an answer to this conundrum offered. Instead, there are reports that Home Office officials have been sent to Singapore to see how their ‘tough’ immigration computer system operates. But it isn’t obvious how ‘counting people in and out of the country’, the task the city state has apparently solved, addresses the core problem with an immediate end to freedom of movement outlined above.

It is also worth noting that, rigorous as it might be, Singapore’s system is geared towards admitting an exceptionally high number of foreign ‘workers’ and ‘talents’ – a policy in keeping with Boris Johnson’s decision to tear up Theresa May’s net migration target, but scarcely something voters might characterise as ‘tough’.

What detail we have suggests that Patel is employing smoke and mirrors: the Guardian reports a ‘senior Home Office source’ as claiming that “the only change that had so far been confirmed by the Home Office was additional criminal record checks on those entering the UK, while other potential changes were still being assessed.” The Daily Express also reports that Patel intends to introduce tough new criminality rules and at least implies that this will not affect those EU nationals eligible for settled status – although again, the question arises of how the new system will recognise these as such.

One can therefore see the germ of a strategy here: tough talk, and a high-profile crackdown on obvious abuses, providing cover for a general shift to a more liberal (but perhaps better-regulated and more rigorously policed) system. Alternatively, this is simply intended to sit alongside more police officers and a boost to NHS spending in a whirlwind of retail offers the Prime Minister means to bank sooner rather than later, and help him buy the political breathing room for a more considered alternative.

The danger is that by talking grandly of ‘ending free movement’ the Government ends up raising expectations it cannot meet – or sowing chaos and uncertainty in the attempt to meet them.

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EU citizens after Brexit: how the UK’s new immigration system will work and what it means for Settled Status applications

Special rules allowing EU nationals to freely work and live in the UK will end overnight if the UK leaves the EU without a Brexit deal.

The Government has confirmed that it will immediately end Freedom of Movement in the UK if it leaves without a deal on 31 October 2019 – which is looking increasingly likely as both sides appear unable to find a compromise.

There were previously plans in place to avoid major disruptions for EU citizens wishing to move to the UK, which involved delaying the restrictions until the end of 2020.

But this has been scrapped by the new government in favour of a new immigration scheme being rapidly developed by the Home Office.

Here’s what this means for EU nationals:

A group of pro-European demonstrators protest against the end of Freedom of Movement (Photo: Getty Images)

EU nationals already living in the UK

Settled Status (SS) scheme

The government has said the Settled Status (SS) scheme – which allows EU nationals living in the UK to apply for the right to remain – will still be open to applicants until December 2020.

The scheme requires EU nationals who live in the UK to provide proof of their eligibility to remain through their passport and living address.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed that, whether there is a deal or a no-deal Brexit, EU nationals who resident in the UK on or before 11pm on 31 October 2019 will still have their rights protected.

Read more:

Boris Johnson rips up Theresa May’s pledge to EU citizens with no-deal Brexit borders crackdown

What if I have not applied for SS?

There were concerns that two of the three million EU nationals living in the UK, who have not yet applied for Settled Status, could find themselves suddenly unable to stay in the UK on 31 October.

But the Government said anyone eligible for settled status will not be barred from living in the UK when free movement ends – even if they have not applied.

It does, however, encourage them to apply. Applying for Settled Status is free and can be done using this link.

The Home Office said the deadline to apply will be December 2020 – more than a year after the Leave date.

Boris Johnson was warned he could trigger a new Windrush-style scandal after he announced plans to impose 'much tougher' criminality checks
Boris Johnson announced plans to impose ‘much tougher’ criminality checks on EU nationals coming to the UK (Photo: Peter Nicholls/PA Wire)

What if I haven’t applied for SS by December 2020?

EU nationals living in the UK will have until “at least” December 2020 to apply for Settled Status but it has not clarified what will happen to those who do not do so before this deadline.

The Government committed to protecting the rights of all EU nationals living in the UK before 31 October but it is not clear whether this would still be the case if they fail to apply for Settled Status by the extended deadline.

Will I still have the same benefits?

Anyone who has had their Settled Status application approved by the Government will be free to work, live, claim benefits, and use services – such as the NHS – as they did before.

The Government is strongly encouraging EU citizens and their families to apply to the Settled Status scheme, but it those who haven’t applied when free movement ends will still have the same entitlements to work, benefits and services and will be able to prove these in the same way as they do now.

It said that there will be more guidance coming for those who arrive after Freedom of Movement ends.

What if I am on holiday at the time of the deadline?

The Government said that EU citizens and their families would still be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme, even if they are on holiday over Brexit, because their records will show that they live in the UK.

EU nationals, living in the UK take part in a demonstration along Whitehall. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

No one eligible for status will be barred from re-entering the UK when free movement ends.

But two million people have not applied yet… 

Yes, as pointed out by campaign group the3million, the Government has processed just over one million Settled Status applications since 29 March, meaning a further two million still do not have status.

“It’s leaving over 2 million EU citizens who, if freedom of movement is really ending abruptly on Oct 31st, will have no official proof that they have the right to live and work in the UK,” the group said.

“Ending freedom of movement abruptly, before all EU citizens in the UK can be issued with a status under the EU Settlement Scheme will create two sets of EU citizens. One set who have the automatic right to live and work and those who arrive after October 31st, who haven’t.

“Those two sets of EU citizens will be indistinguishable to landlords, banks, employers and the NHS. How are organisations meant determine which rights those EU citizens in front of them will have?

“This country, our home, must not allow for any policy that will lead to mass discrimination.”

The Home Office said: “EU citizens are our friends, family and neighbours and we want them to stay. The EU Settlement Scheme protects the rights of EU citizens and we encourage them to apply. One million people have been granted status under the Scheme already.

“It’s important to remember we are looking for reasons to grant, not reasons to refuse.”

Border Force check the passports of passengers arriving at Gatwick Airport (Getty Images)

EU nationals living outside the UK

What has changed?

The Government said that the UK would be leaving the EU on 13 October “come what may”, increasing the chance that we could end up with a no-deal Brexit.

This would mean that there will be no two-year transitional period phasing out our membership of the UK – during which time Freedom of Movement would have continued.

In a no-deal Brexit, Freedom of Movement will end as soon as the UK leaves the EU on midnight 31 October 2019.

Theresa May had promised that, in a no deal, free movement would have been replace with “European Temporary Leave to Remain” which would allow EU, EEA and Swiss citizens arriving in the UK after Brexit to live, work and study in the UK.

But Mr Johnson has said that all free movement will end immediately.

What happens when Freedom of Movement ends?

This mean that EU nationals who do not already live in the country will not be able to freely enter the UK to work, or live, or stay for an extended amount of time, without being subject to the same immigration checks as people from other countries.

The UK already has a points-based system for all non-EU migrants and this will now extend to apply to EU migrants coming to the UK.

Read more:

How to prepare for no-deal Brexit: what you actually need to do before the UK leaves the EU on 31 October

What will the new immigration rules be?

The system awards points for various aspects of a person’s application such as English language skills, being sponsored by a company and meeting a salary threshold.

The Government has pledged to change this system to make it more like the Australian point-based system which could assess applicants trying to get a working visa on their age or educational qualifications or salary.

The Government has also said it will immediately introduce tougher criminality rules for people entering the UK, which will be based on the UK criminality threshold rather than the EU threshold.

Details of how the immigration system will actually be changed are still being developed by the Government and would likely then need to be approved by the Commons.

Can EU nationals visit on holiday?

EU citizens will still be able to come to the UK on holiday or for short visits.

It is not yet clear whether they would be required to obtain a short-term tourist visa.

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Brexit: Diane Abbott says Government’s plan to end freedom of movement will ‘make Windrush look like a blip’

Labour‘s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said that Boris Johnson’s plans to curtail freedom of movement on 31 October would “make Windrush look like a minor blip” as she claimed Labour would put in place “transitional arrangements”.

Mr Johnson has announced plans to stop freedom of movement overnight at the end of October in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Ms Abbott criticised the plans, saying they would cause “chaos”, and said that Labour would still curtail the rights of EU nationals to enter the UK unimpeded – but in a more gradual way.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s going to create chaos, it’s going to be very problematic for business, but it’s going to be very difficult for EU nationals.

“There are currently three million here altogether, a million have registered for settled status, there’s no possibility of two million registering between now and the 31st October, and then those EU nationals that were here but haven’t registered for settled status will be in the exact same position as the Windrush people.

“There will be people that came here perfectly legally, but will not have the paperwork to prove that and will have all sorts of problems with employers and the NHS and so on.”

Diane Abbott criticised the Government’s plans for immigration post-Brexit. (Photo: BBC)

She added: “The way Boris is doing it is heading to a catastrophe (which) will make Windrush look like a minor blip.”

She said that Labour would stick by its manifesto commitment made in the run-up to the 2017 general election but would do so in a more managed way.

She said: “What should happen is what business and EU nationals want, which is more consultation, and a longer and more considered transitional process.”

“You’ve got to have a transitional process. That’s what EU nationals think, and that’s what business things, anything else is chaos.”

‘Settled status’

Home Secretary Priti Patel is planning to impose new restrictions on 31 October.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is planning to impose new restrictions on 31 October. (Photo: Reuters)

Downing Street confirmed on Monday that the right of European Union nationals to freedom of movement would end overnight on 31 October in the event of no-deal, doing away with Theresa May’s intention to avoid major restrictions on EU citizens’ movement until the end of 2020.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is working on a new immigration regime for EU nationals that will need to be in place in just over ten weeks.

The department is trying to encourage more of the 3 million EU nationals to apply for “settled status” before the UK leaves the EU.

Two-thirds are yet to request the status, raising fears that up to two million people could be left in a legal limbo when new rules come into force.

The Government insisted that EU nationals already in the UK would not be prevented from re-entering the country on 1 November even if they were yet to receive their new paperwork.

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A big question about Hong Kong – and even bigger ones about migration and China

We have been here before – at least, in a manner of speaking.  In 1989, the then Conservative Government granted British citizenship to some 250,000 people from Hong Kong.  There was a paradox to the decision: Ministers’ intention was not that they should enter Britain under the scheme.  Rather, this was that it would encourage them to stay in Hong Kong, by giving them certainty about their future, thus halting a mass exodus.

The gambit was sparked by doubts about whether China would honour the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, under which the two countries agreed terms for the transfer of Hong Kong, and which was due to come into effect in 1997.  It worked.  Tensions simmered down, and there was no mass take-up of UK passports.

But there has always been a giant questionmark against China’s honouring of the “one country, two systems” provisions within the declaration.  It is highly visible now.  Two years ago, the country’s Foreign Ministry described the declaration as an “historical document, [which] no longer has any practical significance, and does not have any binding effect on the Chinese central government’s management of the Hong Kong”.

It is unlikely that China will presently send troops into Hong Kong, and formally tear up the commitments enshrined in the join declaration.  But the possibility exists, now or in the future: it is currently showing videos of troops massing on Hong Kong’s borders.  This is part of its response to pro-democracy protests, which were concentrated originally on opposition to an extradition bill, under which suspects could be sent to China for trial.  But the aims of demonstrators spread wider: they demand the free election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and legislature.

In essence, the settlement left by the joint declaration is unstable. For example, Hong Kong has a legislature of which only half the seats are directly elected.  And although China has powerful incentives not to tear up the “one country, two systems provisions” – which would do its Belt and Road initiative abroad no good – the people of Hong Kong cannot be sure what the future will hold.

Hence the proposal by Tom Tugendhat and others to grant British citizenship to the 169,000 or so British Nationals Overseas in Hong Kong.  Some want a bigger offer: the Adam Smith Institute also proposes to “open up the application process to the 4.5 million Hong Kong nationals”.  Some, a smaller one: the Sun wants Britain to admit “the best and brightest in the small territory”.  It might be that such a scheme would have the same effect as that of 1989: in other words, to encourage people to stay in Hong Kong rather than leave for the United Kingdom.

Then again, it might not – either now or, far more likely, in future.  And the context in Britain has changed since 1989.  Some, very largely but not exclusively on the left, support all migration, pretty much.  Others would welcome a big influx of hard-working, family-orientated, Hong Kongers: this has an appeal for parts of the right.  But even though public concern about immigration seems to have eased off recently, there is reason for caution.

As the Migration Observatory puts it in one of its headline findings: “British views are not favourable towards immigration and a substantial majority would like immigration to be reduced”.  Furthermore, Government policy is in flux.

Boris Johnson wants to scrap Theresa May’s unmet pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, and promises Dominic Cummings’s fabled Australian-style points system instead.  But it is far from clear what numbers this plan would produce – and numbers, though not everything in immigration debate, are much.  And the system faces a daunting challenge in any event.

The Government now says that in the event of a No Deal Brexit – arguably now the most likely outcome – free movement will end immediately, which would certainly be popular with many voters.  However, it isn’t apparent what system will be used to distinguish between EU nationals who have applied for the new settlement scheme and those who haven’t, to name only the most obvious of the problems bound up with immediate change.

In 1989, Norman Tebbit led a backbench revolt against the passport plan for Hong Kongers. It was less successful than advance publicity suggested.  But there is no guarantee that the outcome would be similar this time round, were the more ambitious of the Hong Kong schemes to be tried.

Ultimately, the problem of how to respond to China over Hong Kong is a sub-set of the problem of how to respond to it more broadly – which points to the wider debate over Huawei, China, our infrastructure and national security.  We could and should, as in 1989, offer some passports to Hong Kongers.  But, as then, the should and must be strictly limited.

Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that the Joint Declaration is a legally binding treaty, registered at the United Nations.  Which means that third parties have an interest in upholding it, however distant.  In the case of Donald Trump, this might not be remote at all, given his stance on China.

Boris Johnson is due to see Trump soon – and frequently, given the mutual interest in a trade deal.  The former ought to put Hong Kong on the agenda.  Admittedly, the President is no fan of more migration to America.  But it just might be that there is an Anglosphere offer to be made to Hong Kongers on a bigger scale than Britain could make alone.

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End of free movement: Boris Johnson rips up Theresa May’s pledge to EU citizens with no-deal Brexit borders crackdown

Boris Johnson was warned he could trigger a new Windrush-style scandal after he announced plans to impose “much tougher” criminality checks at Britain’s borders following a no-deal Brexit.

Downing Street confirmed that the right of European Union nationals to freedom of movement would end overnight on 31 October if the UK leaves the bloc without an agreement with Brussels.

It is tearing up Theresa May’s intention to keep current freedom of movement rules in place until the end of 2020. The announcement also caused consternation among business chiefs, who protested that ministers were adding to uncertainty and confusion in the run-up to Brexit.

Details of the proposed new immigration regime, which may have be in place in just over 10 weeks, are being rapidly developed by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary.

Borders crackdown

Priti Patel is in charge of immigration overhaul (Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty)
Priti Patel is in charge of immigration overhaul (Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty)

Meanwhile, the Home Office is stepping up efforts to encourage the three million EU nationals living in Britain to apply for “settled status” in advance of Brexit. Two-thirds are yet to request the status, raising fears that up to two million people could be left in a legal limbo when new rules come into force.

Critics claimed that the upheaval could lead to a repeat of last year’s Windrush scandal in which people living in Britain for many years after arriving from the Caribbean were wrongly stripped of benefits, detained or even deported.

Downing Street insisted that EU nationals already in the UK would not be prevented from re-entering the country on 1 November – even if they were yet to receive their new paperwork.

But the3million, an EU citizens’ campaign group, said: “This government is shamefully linking EU citizens to criminality at every turn.

“We demand that the PM delivers on his promises to EU immigrants rather than creating … a large-scale Windrush scandal by treating us as ‘guilty until proven innocent’.”

Shake-up to no-deal plans

Diane Abbott, the shadow Home Secretary, said: “The threat to treat EU citizens settled here as if they may be criminals is a direct product of the Government’s aim to crash out with a no-deal Brexit.

Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “The Home Office has proved time and time again that it is simply not fit for purpose. The idea that it will be able to cope with a bureaucratic exercise on this scale after the Windrush scandal is completely untenable.”

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Operation Yellowhammer papers warn of food, fuel and medicine shortages if UK goes for no-deal Brexit

A Downing Street spokeswoman said the immigration system, which currently places no restrictions on EU nationals wanting to live and work in Britain, would “look different” under the shake-up.

“Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on 31 October,” she said. “We will introduce, immediately, much tougher criminality rules for people entering the UK.”

Josh Hardie, the CBI’s deputy director-general, said: “Announcing that the existing arrangements may end before a replacement has been designed, delivered or tested will only cause confusion.”

‘Race against time’

Ministers face a race against time to avert chaos at Britain’s borders on 1 November in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

A complex system needs to be designed and introduced for that moment – just 73 days away – when EU nationals’ right to freedom of movement ends.

All that has been confirmed so far is that the government will conduct tougher criminality checks on new arrivals, although it is yet to provide any detail on how those tests might be applied.

The government insists nothing will change for the three million EU nationals already living and working in the UK – regardless of whether they have applied for “settled status” by the time Britain leaves the bloc.

But critics fear that some of those EU nationals could still fall foul of new immigration rules as they move in and out of the country because they lack the necessary documentation.

The warnings carry echoes of the Windrush scandal when British citizens who had arrived from the Caribbean decades ago faced sanctions and detention because they could not produce the paperwork to prove their status.

How other travellers in and out of the country would be affected following a no deal is also unclear.

As arrivals from the EU will face extra checks, British travellers heading for the Continent could find themselves treated as passengers from a “third country” – equivalent to the United States or Australia – rather than being entitled to freedom of movement.

Even one minute of extra border checks on each passenger could lead to major delays at airports and Channel ports.

UK holidaymakers are also likely to face major changes when it comes to insuring themselves while touring in the EU.

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Boris Johnson insists free movement ’will end’ October 31

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit immigration plan is still “being developed” but he insisted today that freedom of movement “will end” on October 31.

At a regular briefing for journalists, a spokeswoman for the prime minister said “tougher criminality rules” for people entering the U.K. would be immediately introduced, as one example of how the U.K.’s immigration policy would shift from day one after Brexit.

Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May had been planning a “transition” period until the end of 2020 during which the U.K. would continue to have the same obligations as an EU country, under the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the EU27. That deal was voted down by parliament and Johnson has called for it to be reopened.

The new prime minister’s tough stance has big implications for a host of industries reliant on workers from abroad such as the farming sector and the National Health Service, and would require immediate changes to immigration checks at airports and ports.

The spokeswoman said the government’s settled status scheme, which May’s government set up to guarantee that EU nationals living in the U.K. before the end of 2020 are able to remain in the U.K. indefinitely, would continue as it had previously been announced.

The Home Office said today that, while EU citizens will have until December 2020 to apply for settled status, it will only be EU citizens living in the U.K. before 11 p.m. on October 31 that will be eligible.

“Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on October 31 when the U.K. leaves the EU. For example we will introduce immediately much tougher criminality rules for people entering the U.K. Details of other changes immediately on October 31 for a new immigration system are currently being developed and we will set out further plans on that front shortly,” the spokeswoman said.

“The prime minister has obviously been clear he wants to introduce an Australian-style points base immigration system,” the spokeswoman added. Australian visas are allocated in line with criteria including age, qualifications and English language ability.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has sent officials to Singapore to “understand how a well-functioning immigration IT system is developed. Specifically, ensuring we can count people in and out the country,” the Daily Telegraph reported Sunday.

However, concerns have been raised it would be impossible to implement immediate changes because the government has not yet solved the question of how to distinguish between those who were already in the U.K. before Brexit and those who will enter the country post October 31, and because government will not have finished registering all EU citizens already in the U.K. by then.

A Downing Street official privately admitted that in a no-deal scenario there would not be a lot of time available to make a “significant change” to the U.K.’s immigration system and to get a new system ready.

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1 million EU citizens granted right to reside in UK after Brexit

About 1 million of the roughly 3 million EU27 citizens living in the U.K. have obtained the right to reside in the country after Brexit through the British government’s new EU settlement scheme.

According to figures released by the Home Office today, 951,700 citizens from European Economic Area countries and Switzerland had obtained settled or pre-settled status (for those who will have been living in the country for five years by December 30, 2020) as of July 31. Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis said registrations hit 1 million in August.

The British government launched the scheme at the end of March to ensure citizens of other EU countries living in the country continue to have the right to live, work and have access to public services in the U.K. after Brexit. The scheme is set to replace the permanent residency program, and all Europeans who arrive in Britain before Brexit day would be eligible to apply.

Almost 150,000 Europeans obtained settled status in the month of July alone, as the government stepped up its preparations to leave the EU without a deal.

The highest number of applications received were from Polish (179,800), Romanian (141,200) and Italian (121,600) nationals.

The Home Office is urging Europeans to apply to the scheme by December 31, 2020 if the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal, and by June 30, 2021 if a Brexit deal is ratified.

Catherine Barnard, a professor of EU law and employment law at the University of Cambridge, said that low-skilled workers such as fruit-pickers, who work for multiple U.K. employers, are less likely to apply to the scheme.

“The good news is that people are applying to settled status and actually those who have secured work histories are finding it a relatively easy process,” she said.

“The bad side that is that of course the majority still haven’t done it and, in my experience talking with EU nationals, some of them don’t appreciate the significance of having to do it. Others who have got very incomplete work histories are worried about being able to prove that they’ve got settled status.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said that the figures are “very positive” and Europeans still have “quite a long time” to apply.

Lewis said the scheme is designed to make it “straightforward” for Europeans and their family members to stay in the country after Britain leaves the EU.

“EU citizens have made incredible contributions to our country — which is why I’m so pleased that over one million people have been granted status, enshrining their rights in law,” he said.

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A UK-US trade deal. Never mind the economics (at least for a moment). Feel the politics.

“While trade deals have taken on an important political and symbolic value in the context of Brexit,” Dominic Walsh of Open Europe wrote recently on this site, “their economic benefits are typically smaller and slower to materialise than many realise.” This is the place to start when considering a possible UK-US agreement on trade.  Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm for one is as much political as economic: a successful deal would show Britain, as it moves a bit further from the EU, also moving a bit closer to America.

Such a rebalancing is a strategic consequence of Brexit, at least in the eyes of many backers of leaving the EU.  Future trade deals were a Vote Leave EU referendum priority – though it may be significant that the United States was not one of the headline countries named.  Perhaps the reason was a wariness of anti-American sentiment among a section of the voting public.  None the less, the prospect of a trade agreement with the United States was mooted during the 2016 campaign: hence Barack Obama’s line, written for him by Team Cameron, of Britain being “at the back of the queue” for such a deal.

The obstacles to one are formidable.  For while the Prime Minister is bound to view it through the lens of politics, Donald Trump is more likely to do through that of economics – though the one admittedly tends to blur into the other.  America’s approach to such matters as food safety and animal welfare, environmental protection and intellectual property rights is different from ours in any event.  Never mind the red herring of chlorinated chickens – so to speak – or autopilot claims from Corbynistas about NHS selloffs. The real action is elsewhere.  The United States has long had a protectionist streak, and is resistant to opening up its financial services markets, for example.

The conventional view is that Trump is the biggest America Firster of all; that he would drive a hard bargain, that he has the muscle to do so – and that he wouldn’t be in control of an agreement anyway.  Congress could block one if it wished, and might well do so in the event of No Deal, since the Irish-American lobby is as well-entrenched as ever.  It has been a headache for British governments over Ireland-linked matters before: remember the McBride principles.  A different take is that politics may win out in the end, because both Trump and Congress will want a UK trade deal in order to put economic and political pressure on the EU: we will publish more about that later this week.

John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser, is visiting Britain.  He said yesterday that the UK will be “first in line” for a trade agreement post-Brexit – a deliberate counter to Obama’s line.  Bolton will be dangling the prospect as an inducement.  He will want Johnson to take a more resistant line to Huawei than Theresa May did, and for the UK to move closer to America’s position on Iran.  But the possibility of early sector deals – or at least the exclusion of Britain from new pro-protection moves – seems to be real enough.  As with the NHS, policing, immigration and stop and search, so with trade.  Johnson wants progress towards a quick win as a possible election looms.

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So we’ve had NHS, policing and immigration plans from Johnson. Stand ready for a schools spending pledge.

So Boris Johnson has pledged 10,000 new police officers, as well as a raft of tougher-sounding anti-crime policies, an Australian-style points-based immigration system (not to mention the relaxion of migration rules for scientists), and £1.8 billion for the NHS.  It isn’t hard to see where he will go next, and soon.

The remaining element of Dominic Cummings’s favourite set of policies – tax cuts for lower-paid workers – may have to wait for a publicity push, because these would need legislation, and the Government has no working majority.  Though the Prime Minister could try them on the Commons anyway, daring Labour to vote them down, as part of an Emergency Budget in October (if there is one).

What is likely to come sooner is a Government commitment to spend at least £5,000 on every secondary school pupil.  ConservativeHome understands that this announcement is written into this summer’s campaigning grid.  But we need no special briefing to work this out for ourselves in any event – and nor does anyone else.  For why peer into the crystal of Downing Street announcements when one can read the book: i.e: Johnson’s Daily Telegraph columns?

For it was in one of these, back during the Conservative leadership election, that he pledged “significantly to improve the level of per pupil funding so that thousands of schools get much more per pupil – and to protect that funding in real terms”.  The £5000 figure was briefed out separarely.  This promise was one of the two main big ticket spending items of his campaign, the other being that undertaking to raise police spending.

“It is simply not sustainable that funding per pupil should be £6800 in parts of London and £4200 in some other parts of the country,” the former Mayor of the capital wrote.  Just as the NHS spending announcement was framed by a visit to hospitals in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, expect any school spending news to be projected by a trip to schools in Leave-voting provincial England: all part of the push to squeeze the Brexit Party.

If that column is any guide, don’t be surprised to see a maths, science and IT element too – which would also be very Cummings – as well as a stress on “giving real parity of esteem to vocational training and apprenticeships”.  There is evidence that these are popular all-round, but especially among older voters.  Gavin Williamson is bound to have a supporting role, just as Priti Patel has had with the weekend’s law and order initiatives, but Johnson will lead.

Like his other spending promises, Johnson’s school pledge may not be deliverable in the event of a No Deal Brexit, and there are inevitably questions anyway about timescale anyway.  But if you want to know what more will be in his campaigning package, look no further.

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Patrick Spencer: What the new Government should do to ensure migrants are better skilled – and supported

Patrick Spencer is Head of Work and Welfare at the Centre for Social Justice.

The debate around immigration has become fraught to the point of complete intransigence in recent years. Events as close to home as the Grenfell Tower tragedy and as far afield as the Syrian civil war have brought the subject to the fore again. Inflammatory rhetoric here as well as in other countries hasn’t helped. As we leave the European Union, cooler heads must prevail.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is today releasing a report that brings a level-headedness to the debate that is sorely needed. Importantly, it places the interests of immigrants squarely at the centre of its proposals. Immigration policy should not just be about who is allowed to come and work in Britain, but also how we support those people who do, so that they can avoid the trappings of low pay, unsafe working conditions, crime, social marginalisation and poverty.

The reality is that uncontrolled immigration growth over the last 15 to 20 years has worked – to a point. Our services, manufacturing and agricultural industries have benefited from skilled and inexpensive labour from EU new member States.

However, the economic costs of low-skilled immigration have been both wage stagnation at the bottom end of the income spectrum – analysis at the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration found that “an inflow of immigrants of the size of 1 per cent of the native population would lead to a 0∙6 per cent decrease at the 5th wage percentile and a 0∙5 per cent decrease at the 10th wage percentile” – and low levels of productivity boosting capital investment. High-skilled immigration has had the opposite effect though, increasing wages, productivity, innovation and capital investment.

In the long term, it is also likely that the British economy will demand less low-skilled labour. Automation, technology and changing firm dynamics are likely to mean a greater focus on hiring higher-skilled workers, and more fluid jobs in which individuals are expected to take on multiple roles and work across multiple teams. The CSJ argues therefore that is irresponsible to continue to operate an immigration system that is deaf to the demands of our changing economy, and risks leaving migrant labourers unemployed and at risk of falling in to poverty.

It is for this reason that the CSJ’s first policy recommendation for this Conservative Government post-Brexit is folding all EU immigration in to the existing Tier 2 skilled immigration system, and tightening up the eligibility for Tier 2 applicants so that they are genuinely skilled and can command a wage well above the UK median. Key to this recommendation is carving out occupations that are deemed of strategic interest to the UK economy, for instance nurses and doctors who come to work in our NHS, but do not earn above average salaries.

The Government’s responsibility to immigrants should not stop there. For those that do come to Britain legally, whether under refugee status or another route, we must make sure support is there to reduce the risk that they and their children become socially marginalised, end up in low-paid work or unemployed, and get stuck in the criminal justice system. It is naïve to think the immigration policy debate ends on day two.

In that vein, the CSJ also recommend more integrated support for refugees when they come to Britain, including better financial support, longer term housing options and help with English speaking skills. The report also calls for a beefing up of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement financial powers and reach. There are potentially thousands of foreign individuals kept in forced servitude in Britain today, and many more working in unsafe conditions for illegally low pay.

Finally, it is high time the Government addresses the huge disparities in economic outcomes among minority and indigenous ethnic groups. Generations of immigrants from some groups still perform poorly in the education system, labour market and criminal justice system.  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that poverty rates among Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Groups are twice as high as for White British groups. Dame Louise Casey discovered that individuals of South East Asian and Caribbean descent were three times and twice as likely to live in deprived parts of the UK, when compared to White British groups. Just one third of Bangladeshi women living in Britain are in employment compared to three quarters of White British women. One in five Black African and Black Caribbean men and almost one in four Mixed Race men are economically inactive. Unless the Government addresses the problem with real gusto, it will persist.

This report calls for calmer and more long-term thinking on immigration policy that prioritises high-skilled immigration and increases support for parts of the country that have struggled due to uncontrolled low-skilled immigration. Public opinion reflects this – polling by Hanbury Strategy earlier this year found that 51 per cent of the UK public recognise that not all parts of the UK have benefited from immigration, while YouGov polling in 2018 found that ‘treating EU citizens who want to come and live in the UK the same as people from elsewhere in the world’ was supported by 65 per cent of respondents and scrapping the limit of high skilled immigrants was supported by 46 per cent of respondents.

This is a great opportunity for the new Government to fix this long-standing issue of contention in British politics for the long term.

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UK to fast-track visas for researchers post Brexit

The U.K. plans to fast-track visas for researchers to encourage “the very best minds” to continue to work in the country after Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Thursday.

Johnson said he instructed the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to work with the scientific community to develop the new simplified system, which he aims to launch later this year.

The announcement comes amid calls from lawmakers and academics for a streamlined, less costly visa scheme amid concerns that Brexit could hurt the country’s ability to attract top scientists from the Continent. The House of Lords’ science committee urged the government earlier Thursday to ensure post-Brexit immigration rules don’t hinder researcher recruitment and retention.

“To ensure we continue to lead the way in the advancement of knowledge, we have to not only support the talent that we already have here, but also ensure our immigration system attracts the very best minds from around the world,” Johnson said.

The government will now look into possible changes to current immigration policies, including potentially eliminating caps on certain “exceptional talent” visas, targeted at scientists from outside the European Economic Area who are considered leaders or emerging leaders in their field.

This route, which is capped at 2,000 places per year, is currently under-used, but is expected to become more sought-after post Brexit when European researchers lose the right to move freely to the U.K.

The government will also look into the possibility of expanding the list of research institutes and universities able to endorse visa applicants, and developing criteria to endorse them automatically.

Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society scientific academy, welcomed the announcement and said universities should be trusted “to make the right choices when identifying talented individuals the U.K. needs to guarantee our position among the leading scientific nations.”

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Inside the mind of Boris Johnson’s right-hand man

LONDON — Want to know which direction the U.K. under Boris Johnson is headed? Then read the blog posts of the most powerful official on his team.

Dominic Cummings’ writings are a window into the world of the special adviser now shaping Johnson’s premiership, Brexit and the U.K.’s future.

They shed light on Cummings’ motivations for backing Brexit, his obsessions (Otto von Bismarck, the science of probability, chess), and his grudges (against David Cameron, George Osborne, most political pundits). They also point to a revolution in store for the civil service and a political system that, in Cummings’ view, has for too long let process and tradition stand in the way of clear goals, big and small — from fixing the office lifts (or elevators, if you will) to leaving the EU.

Fixing the lifts? Yes. “The [Department for Education’s] lifts were knackered from the start and still are,” Cummings wrote in 2014, reflecting on his first stint in government, from 2010 to 2014, as the right-hand man to then-Education Secretary Michael Gove.

“There were dozens of attempts to have them fixed. All failed. At one point the permanent secretary himself took on the task of fixing the lifts, so infuriated had he become. He retired licking his wounds.”

“I found him very impressive. But also slightly scary. He’s quite intimidating” — Government official on Dominic Cummings

The tale is one of many to be found on the blog. And it wasn’t really about the lifts.

“The insuperable problem of the lifts … gives a clue to what is really happening in Whitehall,” Cummings wrote. “Most of everybody’s day is spent just battling entropy — it is not pursuing priorities and building valuable things.”

Impressive and scary

As campaign director of Vote Leave, Cummings was the back-office mastermind to Johnson’s front-of-house showman during the EU referendum campaign.

Together they were instrumental in delivering the vote in favor of Brexit. Appointed as a senior adviser on Johnson’s first day at 10 Downing Street, the two men have now tasked Whitehall with delivering Brexit — by October 31, deal or no deal, “do or die.”

Together, Cummings and Boris Johnson were instrumental in delivering the vote in favor of Brexit | Pool photo by Ben Stansall/Getty Images

After three years away from frontline politics, during which the blog was his primary means of broadcasting to the world, Cummings has suddenly found himself with more power than ever.

He has taken the office next door to the prime minister’s, and officials say that despite the presence of Johnson’s former London City Hall chief of staff Eddie Lister in No. 10, Cummings is “the most powerful man in Downing Street” and “the one who gives the direction.”

“I found him very impressive. But also slightly scary. He’s quite intimidating,” said one government official.

Cummings himself claims on the blog — not all that convincingly — that his fearsome reputation is over-hyped.

“Contrary to the media story, I dislike confrontation and rows like most people but I am very strongly motivated by doing things in a certain way and am not motivated by people in [Westminster’s London postcode] SW1 liking me,” he wrote in 2017.

He has already won over some inside Downing Street. “I have had no issues with him whatsoever and it’s good to have that focus and determination at the top,” said a government figure who has seen Cummings at work.

His first days in government bear out some of the recurring themes of his copious online writings. He is a believer in the military principle of Auftragstaktik — the idea that leadership means giving subordinates a crystal-clear strategic goal. And the obsessive focus on the October 31 exit date has all the hallmarks of a Cummings campaign. He’s even had a countdown to Brexit clock installed in Downing Street.

Why Cummings wants Brexit

The blog gives some clues about Cummings’ animus toward the EU.

He is not a Brexit ideologue. In a May 2018 post, he said it is “unknowable to anybody” whether the U.K. could “make the most” of Brexit over a “10/20/30 year timescale.”

He describes himself as “not a Tory, libertarian, ‘populist’ or anything else” and in a January 2017 essay outlined his reasoning for joining the Brexit campaign. “I thought very strongly that 1) a return to 1930s protectionism would be disastrous, 2) the fastest route to this is continuing with no democratic control over immigration or human rights policies for terrorists and other serious criminals, therefore 3) the best practical policy is to reduce (for a while) unskilled immigration and increase high skills immigration … 4) this requires getting out of the EU, 5) hopefully it will prod the rest of Europe to limit immigration and therefore limit the extremist forces that otherwise will try to rip down free trade.”

On the day Johnson received the keys to Downing Street, Cummings was photographed inside the most important building in the country, wearing a T-shirt advertising the Elon Musk firm Open AI.

The quote suggests that far from the “dangerous” radical some of his critics see, Cummings sees himself as a counterextremist, seeking to restore public trust in the political system.

War and the historical errors that lead to it haunt his writings (“few realize how lucky we were to avoid nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis”). Another preoccupation is the idea of “branching histories” — the many possible paths that events can take at any given moment. If Bismarck had been assassinated in 1866, would World War I have happened, and therefore would Lenin have come to power, or Hitler?

The principle of branching histories, he wrote, “ought to, but does not, make us apply extreme intelligent focus to those areas that can go catastrophically wrong, like accidental nuclear war, to try to narrow the range of possible histories.”

Instead, “most people in politics spend almost all their time on trivia.”

The science of government

After freeing the U.K. from the EU at the end of October — easier said than done — the blog posts suggest that Cummings’ next target will be the Whitehall machine.

On the day Johnson received the keys to Downing Street, Cummings was photographed inside the most important building in the country, wearing a T-shirt advertising the Elon Musk firm Open AI. It may not have been a throwaway choice of garment.

On the blog, he never misses an opportunity to apply the lessons of science to political decision-making.

In a December 2014 post titled “The Hollow Men ii,” he complained that government institutions “operate to exclude from power scientists, mathematicians, and people from the start-up world — the Creators, in [American physicist Steve] Hsu’s term.”

If he and his boss can navigate the choppy Brexit waters ahead, Cummings now has the chance to make that all-or-nothing gamble | Niklas Halle’n/AFP via Getty Images

In the thousands and thousands of words he devotes to the ills of the Whitehall machine, he laments its inability to respond quickly to errors; the “slow, confused” and usually nonexistent feedback; the “priority movers” system that sees incompetent staff members (“dead souls”) moved into jobs elsewhere in the civil service rather than sacked; and the “flexi-time” working regimes that end up with key personnel missing in action when big announcements need to be planned.

All in all, Cummings decries that Whitehall views failure as “normal, not something to strive to avoid.”

And he suggests having parts of Whitehall “amputated” as one necessary measure, including “firing thousands of unnecessary people.”

To Cummings, quitting the EU will sweep away another roadblock on the path to his vision of the U.K.

While working with Gove, “we cut the department’s headcount by more than a third and halved running costs,” he wrote. “We more than halved the press office, and cut 95 percent of the communication budget. Performance improved rapidly. It would improve further if the [department] were halved again.

In a 2014 blog post, he laments that Margaret Thatcher did not go “for all-out civil service reform with a proper PM’s department,” adding: “If she had been much more revolutionary — then much more could have been done (though such a move would obviously be an all-or-nothing gamble for any prime minister who really tried it and one can see why she shied away).”

If he and his boss can navigate the choppy Brexit waters ahead, Cummings now has the chance to make that all-or-nothing gamble.

Cummings arrives at No. 10 carrying a Vote Leave tote bag | Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images

He’s floated the idea of bringing in Cabinet ministers from outside parliament. He’s also suggested setting up government agencies in the mold of DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense’s tech development arm, originally founded in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik; working on a new international lunar base to help world diplomacy; and revamping the Cabinet room and emergency COBRA committee room to look more like the NASA control center.

“Some old colleagues have said ‘don’t put this stuff on the internet, we don’t want the second referendum mob looking at it,’” he wrote in June. “Don’t worry! Ideas like this have to be forced down people’s throats practically at gunpoint.”

But one government figure said: “He knows he cannot do anything like that this side of a general election. Big Whitehall reforms require a strong majority and you cannot get one until you have delivered on Brexit.”

A new UK

Some of the viewpoints aired in the blog posts give clues as to the immediate direction of Johnson’s government. Anyone wondering whether the PM will enter into a pact with the Brexit Party and Nigel Farage will be asking themselves if Cummings still thinks Farage “put off millions of (middle class in particular) voters” during the referendum.

And those trying to guess whether Downing Street is war-gaming for a no-deal Brexit in October, a general election, or both, might look at the lessons Cummings takes from computer chess, and from his hero Bismarck.

“The very best computers seem to make moves [in chess] that preserve the widest possible choices in the future, just as the most effective person in politics for whom we have good sources, Bismarck, operated always on the principle of ‘keep two irons in the fire.’”

But the blog posts are also a blueprint for a wider outlook.

Cummings was not complimentary of Brexit Party chief Nigel Farage’s role in the referendum campaign | Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

In Cummings’ grand vision, the U.K. would take on “a central role in tackling humanity’s biggest problems and shaping the new institutions, displacing the EU and UN, that will emerge as the world makes painful transitions in coming decades.”

But first he must solve Brexit; a Gordian knot that has led to the demise of two prime ministers and may yet claim another, along with his right-hand man.

To Cummings, quitting the EU will sweep away another roadblock on the path to his vision of the U.K.

Whitehall’s failure to achieve it — just like fixing the “bloody lifts” in the Department for Education — highlights the inefficiencies he wants to remove, seemingly by any means necessary.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email for a complimentary trial.

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Robert Thomas and Joe Tomlinson: How Immigration Judicial Review Works

Two years ago on this blog, we drew attention to the immigration judicial review system—by far the most active area of judicial review litigation and the vast majority of all judicial reviews in England and Wales. In that post, we identified why there was a pressing need for further empirical exploration of the topic: not only was there a lack of understanding of litigation patterns but, on the basis of the evidence available, it seemed there was an issue of whether disputes were being channelled appropriately to judicial review (Paul Daly’s reflections on this post are available here). Since then, we have set about trying to build the evidence base that we argued was necessary to advance understanding. We collected data on the types of immigration judicial review claims and the views and experiences of people involved in the system. Our approach to the research was to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. We then combined the data gathered through these methods to inform our analysis. Our data included case-file analysis of Upper Tribunal judicial review cases and interviews with judges, representatives, users of the system, and others. We also undertook observations. Our full findings are set out in a detailed report, which we are publishing today. In this post, we provide a summary of our key conclusions.

Following the transfer of most immigration judicial reviews from the Administrative Court to the Upper Tribunal in 2013, the tribunal’s caseload was initially very high, but has since declined. Most judicial reviews are fact-specific; they turn on their own specific facts and circumstances and tend not to raise wider points of law and policy. Many claims raise issues concerning the application of asylum and human rights law, especially the right to respect for family and private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Many judicial reviews are lodged in an attempt to secure an in-country right of appeal (instead of an out-of-country appeal). While there is an ongoing debate about the relative advantages of appeals as against judicial review, the removal of appeal rights under the Immigration Act 2014 does not seem to have led to a significant increase in judicial reviews.

Many judicial review claims are refused permission because the Upper Tribunal decides that they are unarguable. The use of template, standard, and unparticularised grounds of challenge is a common, though not universal, feature. There are continuing concerns regarding the variable quality of representation for claimants. Action has been taken to deter lawyers from repeatedly lodging abusive and vexatious judicial review claims. Anecdotally, this may have led to a reduction in the volume of judicial reviews. There is evidence that some people are at risk of exploitation by unscrupulous advisers. At the same time, good quality representatives work under a range of pressures and find that this environment can hinder their work.

The majority of judicial review claims are refused permission to proceed. Nonetheless, there are concerns about the quality of initial Home Office decisions. We encountered instances of poor decision-making effectively challenged by way of judicial review. We found that 20 per cent of the cases we examined are settled out of court, with an agreement that the case be reconsidered by the Home Office. We also encountered the phenomenon of “repeat judicial reviews.” That is, when a second judicial review is lodged against a fresh Home Office decision which is very similar to the initial decision. This was symptomatic of wider issues of poor communication between the Home Office and claimants.

As regards the categories of immigration judicial reviews, there is a wide range of immigration decisions that are challenged by way of judicial review. However, much of the caseload is concentrated within a few categories of case: asylum and human rights claims certified as clearly unfounded; fresh asylum and human rights claims; and removal decisions. Many judicial review challenges are lodged either to secure an in-country appeal or to prevent or delay an individual’s removal from the country. Challenges to Home Office delay used to feature prominently in the caseload, but this is no longer the case.

There is a wider debate concerning the appropriate remedies that should be available. Judicial review is an important remedy, but its scope is relatively limited. By contrast, appeals to tribunals involve a full re-hearing of a case. We encountered the view from representatives that a right of appeal to the tribunal is a more preferable and effective remedy than judicial review. We also encountered the argument that some specific types of decisions that affect an individual’s fundamental rights, but are currently non-appealable, should attract a right of appeal. These include decisions concerning human trafficking, statelessness, and domestic violence.

As regards claimants, we found evidence that they are often desperate and find the process difficult to understand and stressful. Most, though not all, claimants are legally represented, but the quality of such representation varies enormously. Most claimants are self-funding. Very few claimants appear to be in receipt of legal aid. The process for seeking Exceptional Case Funding is perceived as being difficult. We encountered concerns about the ability of litigants in person to navigate the system effectively. The judicial review process was not designed with litigants in person in mind and there is accordingly a need to address the situation of litigants in person by, for instance, greater provision of guidance. The Upper Tribunal is aware of this challenge.

The wider programme of tribunal modernisation will in the future mean that aspects of the judicial review process will be digitalised. This will include both online applications and document-sharing. This is likely to enhance the efficiency of the process. Nevertheless, the parameters of the project are still being developed. More information needs to be made public about the project to enhance transparency and give the public and stakeholders the opportunity to scrutinise the project’s development. The greater use of Tribunal Caseworkers, another part of the ongoing reforms, will free up judicial time, but needs appropriate monitoring and oversight.

There is little reason to think that alternative dispute resolution would operate effectively as an alternative to judicial review in the immigration context. Nonetheless, the various forms of alternative dispute resolution already built into the process, such as administrative review, re-application, and settlement, could be made to work more effectively. The full implications of the withdrawal of appeal rights by the Immigration Act 2014 requires wider evaluation. The question whether to restore full appeal rights is a policy question. Nonetheless, it is arguable that certain decisions affecting issues of fundamental rights – human trafficking, statelessness, and domestic violence – could be more effectively handled through appeals than judicial review.

From one perspective, our findings pertain to the immigration judicial review system and we hope the new evidence we gather benefits the advancement of that specialist discussion. From another perspective, however, this is also a study of what many judicial reviews look like in a state where public law litigation typically revolves around large machine bureaucracies. It is striking how different the realities of this area of litigation are next to the discussion of judicial review often found in constitutional theory.

Professor Robert Thomas is Professor of Public Law at the University of Manchester.

Dr Joe Tomlinson is Lecturer in Public Law at King’s College London and Research Director of the Public Law Project.

(Suggested citation: R. Thomas and J. Tomlinson, ‘How Immigration Judicial Review Works’, U.K. Const. L. Blog (31st Jul. 2019) (available at

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