No preference for European migrants post-Brexit?

20 September 2018

The MAC has released its long awaited final report on EEA Migration in the UK setting out its recommendations for the UK’s immigration system post-Brexit.

In summary, perhaps surprisingly, the MAC has concluded that no preferential treatment should be given to EEA workers unless this is being considered as part of a trade agreement. They have also recommended that the system should be easier for higher-skilled workers and more restrictive for lower-skilled workers.

It is noted that the report does not address the position for self-employed EEA nationals except to suggest that the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) routes should be “better evaluated” to understand how this may apply to EEA migrants.

The report is likely to provide unwelcome reading for businesses that rely heavily on lower skilled labour, particularly from the EU, including industries such as construction, haulage and hospitality.

On the other hand, whilst there will be an additional administrative burden involved for employers if EEA nationals are required to obtain visas in order to work in the UK, for businesses employing medium to high skilled workers, the recommendations to abolish the Tier 2 cap, abolish or increase the number of exemptions under the RLMT and the reduction of the skills level from RQF 6 to RQF 3 will likely be welcomed.

It is now for the Government to consider the recommendations of the report and how these might work in practice. Whilst in the past they have typically accepted the MAC’s recommendations, it is important to remember that they are not bound to accept them. We will therefore need to wait and see which recommendations are ultimately implemented.

In total the MAC made 14 recommendations, taken from their report[1], as follows:

  • General principle behind migration policy changes should be to make it easier for higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK than lower-skilled workers.
  • No preference for EU citizens, on the assumption UK immigration policy not included in agreement with EU.
  • Abolish the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2 (General).
  • Tier 2 (General) to be open to all jobs at RQF 3 and above. Shortage Occupation List will be fully reviewed in our next report in response to the SOL Commission.
  • Maintain existing salary thresholds for all migrants in Tier 2.
  • Retain but review the Immigration Skills Charge.
  • Consider abolition of the Resident Labour Market Test. If not abolished, extend the numbers of migrants who are exempt through lowering the salary required for exemption.
  • Review how the current sponsor licensing system works for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Consult more systematically with users of the visa system to ensure it works as smoothly as possible.
  • For lower-skilled workers avoid Sector-Based Schemes (with the potential exception of a Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme)
  • If a SAWS scheme is reintroduced, ensure upward pressure on wages via an agricultural minimum wage to encourage increases in productivity.
  • If a “backstop” is considered necessary to fill low-skilled roles extend the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme.
  • Monitor and evaluate the impact of migration policies.
  • Pay more attention to managing the consequences of migration at a local level.

[1] Migration Advisory Committee, EEA Migration in the UK: Final Report – 18 September 2018

For further information, please contact the Fladgate Immigration Team:
Kelly Whiter, Partner, Fladgate LLP (
Sarah Gogan, Partner, Fladgate LLP (
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