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Britain Finally Brexits but Uncertainty over UK–EU Mobility Persists



Madeleine Sumption is Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

The joint impact of Covid-19 and the post-Brexit immigration system make it very difficult to predict what mobility between the UK and Europe will look like in the future — particularly this year, but also for several years to come.

Under the new system, EU citizens coming to the UK to live or work will need to qualify in the same way as non-EU citizens, applying for a visa for work, family, or study. Most EU citizens will no longer be eligible to migrate to the UK to take up low-wage jobs — a major change for UK employers, who have become quite dependent on a steady inflow of EU workers over the past 20 years.

In contrast to free movement, workers who are eligible to move will require an offer of a skilled job with a salary of at least GBP 25,600 for most jobs, and proof of their language skills. They will also have to navigate the new bureaucracy and pay hefty Home Office fees (a non-EU citizen currently pays around GBP 7,000 in fees from initial entry to settlement, and possibly an even higher amount depending on the visa type). For those EU citizens who do have the financial resources, we may start to see more interest in the UK-Tier 1 Investor Visa, which frees applicants from some of the restrictions that come with other permits.

...mobility is likely to be suppressed for some time into 2021

How many people will take up their options to move under the new system is hard to predict. With Covid still raging in the UK, travel bans and quarantines, and the deep economic contraction resulting from the pandemic, mobility is likely to be suppressed for some time into 2021.

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