Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
Government should build migration consensus and engage in open debate
The Home Affairs Committee warns all those involved in the debate not to exploit or escalate tensions over immigration in the run up to withdrawal agreement.
- Read the report summary
- Read the conclusions and recommendations
- Read the full report: Policy options for future migration from the European Economic Area: Interim report
Government has not attempted to build consensus on immigration reform
The Committee has criticised the Government’s failure to set out detail on post-Brexit migration policy or to build consensus on immigration reform despite having over two years since the referendum in which to do so.
Continued delays to the publication of the White Paper on Immigration and the Immigration Bill has meant there is little indication of what immigration policy will be. Despite the fact that the issue was subject to heated and divisive debate during the referendum campaigns in 2016 the Government has not attempted to build consensus on immigration reform or consult the public over future migration policy in the two years since. The Committee believes this is a regrettable missed opportunity.
Migration policy now risks being caught up in a rushed and highly politicised debate
The Committee warns that migration policy now risks being caught up in a rushed and highly politicised debate in the run up to the vote on the withdrawal agreement and it cautions all those involved in the Brexit debate on the withdrawal agreement not to exploit or escalate tensions over immigration in the coming months.
EU migration is an important part of UK history. The need for a good economic deal, the fact that the EU is our closest neighbour and trading partner, UK skills needs and shared economic, social and cultural bonds all mean that EU migration will remain important in future. The committee cautions the Government against implying that the only EEA migration post-Brexit will be in the limited categories referred to in the Withdrawal White Paper, as that is not conducive to an honest or open debate. Nor should the Government make meeting the net migration target an objective of EEA migration policy as it is not working and should be replaced.
In the absence of detail from the Government, the Committee has explored a range of post-Brexit immigration policy options which are set out in this report for Parliament and the public to inform the debate, including on the trade-offs between migration and trade. The Committee will wait for the Migration Advisory Committee’s report in the autumn before making further recommendations, and calls on the Government to consult on options.
Three broad sets of policy options explored
The interim report looks at three broad sets of policy options:
- Within the EU and during transition there are further measures that could be taken, in particular on registration, enforcement, skills and labour market reform. As witnesses noted, the UK has opted not to take up measures which are possible.
- Within an EFTA-style arrangement with close or full participation in the single market, the report highlights a range of further measures that might be possible - especially in a bespoke negotiated agreement. These include ‘emergency brake’ provisions, controls on access to the UK labour market, accession style controls and further measures which build on the negotiation carried out by the previous Prime Minister. We conclude that there are a series of options for significant immigration reform that should be explored by the Government.
- Within an association agreement or free trade agreement, the options in part depend on how close such an agreement is. While any agreement itself may not cover many ‘labour mobility’ measures, the government will still need to make decisions about long-term migration, including for work, family and study.
Calling for a measured debate and consultation on immigration options
Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, said:
"Immigration was one of the central issues during the referendum and it divided the country, but sadly there has been no attempt by the Government to hold any kind of sensible debate on it or build any kind of consensus on immigration since. That is deeply disappointing and it has left a vacuum—and it’s really important that people don’t exploit that again.
The misinformation and tensions over immigration during the referendum campaign were deeply damaging and divisive. It is essential that does not happen again, and those who exploited concerns over immigration during the referendum need to be more honest and more responsible when it is debated in the run up to the final deal.
We are calling for a measured debate and consultation on immigration options instead.
We found there were a much wider range of possible precedents and options for immigration reform than people often talk about - including options that could be combined with participation in the single market - that we believe the Government should be exploring further now."
Latest News from
Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
Post-Pandemic Economic Growth super-inquiry launched by BEIS Committee05/06/2020 15:33:00
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee yesterday launched a new super inquiry on Post-Pandemic Economic Growth.
Applications for Estimates Day Debates05/06/2020 12:33:00
Backbench Members of Parliament are now able to apply to the Backbench Business Committee for debates in the Chamber on the public spending of Government Departments relating to the Estimates.
CANZUK leaders to request Special Envoy for Hong Kong04/06/2020 16:05:00
The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, has today joined his counterparts from Australia, Canada and New Zealand in writing to the United Nations and each country’s Prime Minister, to express their concerns over a planned security law for Hong Kong which would make it a crime to undermine the Chinese Government's authority.
Conduct Committee report on remote voting04/06/2020 15:33:00
The Second Report from the Conduct Committee on remote voting and the code of conduct published.
Business and public will struggle with parallel Covid-19 and Brexit messages03/06/2020 13:05:00
In a report published today, Wednesday 3 June 2020, the Commons Public Accounts Committee says it is concerned that the Cabinet Office will not have the capability to successfully deliver campaign messages on preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period at the same time as delivering the major public health campaign on Covid-19, with it “likely that the Covid-19 campaign will crowd out the Brexit transition campaign.”
Government response to Post Office Network report published02/06/2020 16:25:00
The Government’s response to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee report on the Future of the Post Office Network has been published today.
Time running out to provide certainty for Northern Ireland, Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol report finds02/06/2020 15:33:00
The House of Lords EU Select Committee has today published its report on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
Short inquiry launch: Agrifood and the Northern Ireland Protocol02/06/2020 12:18:00
The House of Lords EU Environment Sub-Committee launches a new short inquiry on what the Northern Ireland Protocol will mean for the agrifood industry in Northern Ireland and the trade of agrifood products between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.