The Queen's Speech reintroduces legislation to end free movement

The niftily named Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill was introduced in the last session of Parliament but was lost to prorogation having made its way to the report stage in the House of Commons. This Bill was resurrected in the Queen's speech of 14 October 2019.


The purpose of the Bill is to:

  • Bring an end to free movement for European nationals in UK law by end December 2020 in readiness for the new points-based immigration system to be introduced from beginning January 2021;
  • Make EU citizens arriving after January 2021 subject to the same UK immigration controls as non-EU citizens;
  • Clarify the immigration status of Irish citizens who will generally not require leave to enter or remain in the UK, unlike all other European nationals; and
  • Enable the Government to deliver future changes to social security co-ordination policy.


The main elements of the Bill intend to:

  • Lay the ground for the new immigration system with the ending the free movement of EU citizens under UK law;
  • Align the treatment of EU citizens arriving after January 2021 with non-EU citizens, implementing Government policy proposal of no preferential treatment for European nationals under the new immigration system;
  • Confirm the ongoing application of the EU Settlement Scheme for pre-Brexit European residents and those who arrive during transition in a Deal scenario and introduce a statutory end date for the scheme;
  • Provide for a right of appeal against decisions under the Scheme;
  • Clarify the immigration status of Irish citizens in the UK once the free movement rules are removed from UK law; and
  • Provide the power to make changes to the current rules for access to benefits and social security coordination for EU nationals.


Key facts:

  • There are an estimated 3.4 million EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, and their family members, living in the UK. An estimated 2 million have made an application to register on the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • On 4 September, the Government set out its policy on post-exit immigration arrangements in a No Deal scenario. Free movement as it currently stands will end on 31 October, but will become part of Retained EU Law, until it is repealed; and
  • The Home Secretary has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to consider a new points-based immigration system that will be built around the skills and talent people have. This includes a request for advice on; “How additional flexibility could be added to the operation of salary thresholds through the awarding of “points” to prospective migrants for the attributes that they possess, such as their educational qualifications, language proficiency, work experience, willingness to work in particular areas and occupation; and the degree to which points in one area should be “tradeable” to make up for a lack of points in another.”
  • MAC has also been commissioned to review where minimum salary thresholds and/or “going rates” salaries should be set in the future immigration system. MAC is due to report on both in January 2020;
  • It is anticipated that the new immigration system will be skills based but that the skills threshold for qualification will be reduced. The requirement to assess the availability of a suitable candidate from the resident labour market is expect to be removed. It is anticipated that there will be provision for low/medium skilled temporary workers but that this will be phased out by 2025;
  • Should the UK leave the EU without a deal then EU citizens moving to the UK after Brexit will have an initial right of residence for a period of three months and will be able to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain under the Immigration Rules. This is non-extendable and will not lead to settlement. It will carry them into the new skills based immigration system from 2021, under which they would need to qualify to extend their lawful residence.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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