British prime minister Theresa May on Monday (19) vowed that Brexit would level the playing field for migrant workers in the UK, with migrants from the European Union (EU) no longer be able to jump the queue ahead of those from countries like India.
Addressing the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference in London, she said the country’s post-Brexit immigration policy will be based on skills and talent rather than which country the immigrant comes from.
“Once we have left the EU, we will be fully in control of who comes here. It will no longer be the case that EU nationals, regardless of the skills or experience they have to offer, can jump the queue ahead of engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi,” she said in her speech.
“Instead of a system based on where a person is from, we will have one that is built around the talents and skills a person has to offer,” she said, adding that the core of the post-Brexit immigration system will be “skills-based” rather than “quota-based”.
Under the current EU freedom of movement rules, migrant workers from within the economic bloc are free to come in and find work in the UK, while workers from non-EU countries like India have to undergo strict visa application requirements.
The UK government has indicated that after Britain has formally left the EU, workers from any part of the world will be subjected to similar visa rules.
May’s speech came against the backdrop of rebel members of parliament within her Conservative Party carrying on with their plotting of a possible coup to oust her as leader of the party and the British prime minister. However, there is no clarity over whether the number of Tory MPs submitting letters of no-confidence in May’s premiership will hit the required 48-MP mark to trigger a no-confidence vote in her leadership any time this week.
There has been widespread criticism of the draft Brexit deal struck by May with her counterparts in the EU, which is set to sign off on the deal at a summit on 25 November.
Despite having lost some members of her Cabinet last week, including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, May used her speech on Monday to stress that she intends to move ahead on the so-called divorce agreement with the EU, with plans to head to Brussels later this week to thrash out details of the UK’s future relationship with the 27-member economic bloc after Britain has formally left in 29 March 2019.
She reiterated that she is not willing to reopen discussions with Brussels over the withdrawal agreement, saying, “The core elements of that deal are already in place.” May also expressed confidence that she expects to hammer out a framework for a future trade relationship in Brussels this week, before signing off the deal at the emergency summit on Sunday.
“It was never going to be easy or straightforward. The final stage was always going to be the toughest. But we have in view a deal that will work for the UK. And let no one be in any doubt. I am determined to deliver it,” she said.
In what she will celebrate as a much-needed win, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) president John Allan called for parliamentarians to back May’s deal because while it is not “perfect”, the consequences for businesses and the economy, if the UK were to simply crash out of the EU with any deal, would be much worse.
“Our message to the politicians is this: listen to the businesses in your constituencies, and everyone who depends upon them,” he said.
Addressing the same conference, Opposition Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, put forward what he called his “alternative plan” for a Brexit deal. He said the Labour Party is committed to a “comprehensive and permanent Customs Union” with Brussels that would give the UK a say in future trade deals.
He also claimed his party could negotiate a “strong single market relationship” that allows British business continued access to European markets for both goods and services.
“A sensible deal must guarantee a strong single market relationship,” Corbyn said.
Meanwhile, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, called on all parties to “remain calm” and focus on the future agreement.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on Monday (19) after meeting with the 27 other EU member states, he said: “We are at a decisive moment in this process. No-one should lose sight of the progress that has been achieved in Brussels and London.” He said the withdrawal deal was “fair and balanced” and both sides “want to avoid using the backstop”, the key sticking point for Brexiteers in the UK, because it would allow the EU to trigger a backup plan of keeping the UK within its Customs Union if an amicable trade agreement for the future is not struck within the transition period – set to run until December 2021.