Proposals aimed at ending the free movement of labour and cutting the numbers of low-skilled migrants from Europe following Brexit have been disclosed in a leaked Home Office document.

The 82-page paper, obtained by The Guardian and marked as extremely sensitive, suggests free movement will end upon exit in March 2019 and sets out for the first time how Britain intends to approach the issue of immigration, suggesting a more selective approach will be adopted.

The document, entitled the ‘Border, Immigration and Citizenship System After the UK Leaves the European Union,’ is understood to be  a draft version of an upcoming whitepaper which has been circulated among senior officials and politicians but has not been agreed by ministers.

“We are clear that, wherever possible, UK employers should look to meet their labour needs from resident labour. It is now more important than ever that we have the right skills domestically to build a strong and competitive economy,” the paper says.

The document refers to a specific “income threshold” that  will be introduced for “self-sufficient” migrants and refers to plans to introduce “right to work” checks. These would have to be carried out by employers, with criminal sanctions possible against companies and individuals if illegal working is discovered.

The document says:

“We may require EU nationals seeking to reside in the UK, for example to work, to obtain permission to do so before taking up employment or before entering the UK, we may require employers to recruit locally first, or we may restrict access to occupations that are not in shortage, particularly in non-highly skilled occupations.”

The document proposes that in the future only EU workers that have a high level of skills would be given permission to stay in the UK for a longer period of three to five years. Lower-skilled EU migrants would only be offered a residency for a maximum of only two years. It says:

“We are minded to grant those in highly skilled occupations and who have a contract of employment of more than 12 months, a permit lasting three to five years. For those in other occupations, it may be up to two years.”

The paper also suggests stripping European citizens of rights to bring family members to Britain and suggests including one option to implement a “direct numerical cap on numbers”.

Commenting on the leaked Home Office paper that sets out proposals for managing migration, Gerwyn Davies, Senior Labour Market Analyst at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:

“This leak should offer a reminder to employers that hire workers from inside the EU that they must respond now to the prospect of migration restrictions or face the consequences of recruitment difficulties in the future.  Overall, the CIPD fully supports the evidence-based approach the Government is taking through the Migration Advisory Committee. We hope that this will lead to a flexible immigration that recognises the genuine need for low-skilled and middle-skilled EU migrant labour as well as the “brightest and the best” approach that the Government has outlined.

“As highlighted in recent CIPD research, some unskilled or low-skilled employers have no alternative than to recruit EU migrant labour due to the unattractiveness of certain roles or sectors to UK nationals and the tightness of the UK labour market in some regions.  However, we also recognise that some employers also need to take a closer look at their reward, recruitment and people development strategies to ensure they are doing all they can to attract and develop British workers.  As CIPD research also shows, one in seven low-wage employers say they recruit EU migrants because they have lower expectations about pay and employment conditions.”

Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.