It is clear that the changing freedom of movement and better control of immigration will be a fundamental part of reforming the UK after we leave the EU. I have campaigned for better migration controls for many years.
Other countries use different approaches to control immigration, some of which may be useful to consider for the UK. Some of the measures that have been exercised include:
- Migrants only being able to access housing, health and education if they prove their employment through a registration system
- Jobs being advertised locally before being offered overseas
- Stricter limits on access to benefits and welfare
- An upper break – or cap – on migrant numbers
I have written a paper that explains these options in more detail, which you can read here.
However, immigration and free movement are sensitive subjects and we have to remember when we are negotiating a new free movement deal, just how deeply cherished the right to free movement is in other parts of Europe, especially those that were held under Communist rule where there are recent, often emotionally painful, memories of the heavy restrictions on movement. We should also be sensitive to how "points based" systems are perceived as these can easily be interpreted as an attempt to brain-drain talent and skills from others. Different countries even within the EU have their own systems to ensure fairness especially regarding fiscal contributions and benefits, for example the Belgian social security card system, but in the past there has been resistance in the UK to considering this type of domestic reform.
If a new immigration policy is to bring new opportunities for local people then this must be coupled with new policies to enhance skills and training locally. It is also important to retain the easy exchanges of knowledge and talent, especially for the world leading centres of Science and Research that we have in the East of England.
In the East of England, Labour's legacy of uncontrolled immigration put huge pressures on many of our local communities. The government has taken action to prevent abuses of our welfare system and introduced new controls on accessing the NHS as well as making sure that non-EU nationals are charged by the NHS for the healthcare they receive.
There have been a few recent examples where foreign criminals have slipped into the UK and committed serious crimes. In some instances the local police have been unaware of these individuals' criminal record. Our own security is often strengthened by working with other countries. In the East of England, our police forces can cross-check criminal records across Europe and remove those who prove a danger. This is thanks to a campaign I led with Ben Gummer MP for Ipswich, supported by Police and Crime Commissioners across the East. It is important to try and keep this information sharing Post-Brexit.