European immigration to the United Kingdom due to freedom of movement was one of the driving factors behind the Leave campaign, which proponents of Brexit insist must end in 2019.
UK journalist David Goodhart, the director of demography for the British think-tank Policy Exchange on January 31 issued a study advocating that Britain restrict unskilled migration to the country and subject European Union citizens to many of the same requirements as third countries such as Australia and India.
In a statement in conjunction with the report’s release, Mr. Goodhart said, “A Brexit without a clear end to free movement in its current form is neither possible nor desirable as it was clearly one of the biggest single factors behind the Brexit vote. Whilst we welcome an end to freedom of movement, a good post-Brexit immigration deal should maintain a lot of continuity in the movement of people, especially for students and professionals, and we can open up several new temporary work routes. There’s no reason for arrangements to change around tourists and students from the EU, but we do need to see a general reduction in the number of low skilled workers.”
Mr. Goodhart’s report also calls for the government to guarantee the status of the three million European nationals already living in Britain so as to protect the status of the nearly one million Britons resident in the EU itself. The Leave campaign was ultimately successful in the June 23 vote, with 51.81% and Remain at 48.11% of the vote. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was invoked by the British Government on March 29 2017, giving the country almost exactly two years to negotiate its exit from the European bloc.
The report encourages the maintenance of visa free travel between the United Kingdom and European Union for tourists and students. It also suggests that the so-called “Youth Mobility Scheme” allowing 18-30-year-olds from mostly Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada to work in Britain for two years should be extended to young workers from EU member states as well to encourage continuing skilled immigration.
According to the report, lower skilled British workers have been negatively affected by freedom of movement with Europe, as UK businesses sought to exploit cheap Eastern European labor at the expense of supporting domestic employment. Concerns over levels of immigration to the UK from EU countries was one of the most emotive and contentious issues in the 2016 EU membership campaign.
Since the 2016 referendum result, migration observers have noted sharp declines in the volumes of immigration from EU have fallen dramatically, particularly from what are called the “A8 countries,” such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic as well as Romania and Bulgaria.