14th REPORT: ECONOMIC MIGRATION TO THE
The Government welcomes the Committee's overall
conclusion that economic migration by third country nationals
is important to the economies of EU Member States; and that such
migration needs to be regulated in the interests of all parties
concerned; and that because of the diversity of labour market
needs and requirements the detailed criteria governing it should
remain a responsibility of Member States.
This memorandum responds to each of the Committee's
conclusions, individually responding to paragraphs 110 to 130
of the report.
110. Any common EU policy on economic
migration would have to build into its basic design sufficient
flexibility to accommodate national and regional variations. The
ability of the EU to achieve a common position in the field of
services suggests that a similar consensus on broad guidelines
for economic migration might be attainable, but it is unlikely
that the Member States would accept it (paragraph 19).
We agree. As the Committee's report notes there
is no single EU labour market, so a single framework to regulate
access to such a thing does not make sense. The differences in
the systems within Member States are significant and a common
policy will be difficult to reconcile with national interests
or be capable of effective implementation.
111. There is little to fearand
much to gainfrom the extension of freedom of movement rights
to the new Member States (paragraph 24).
We agree. The benefits to the UK of providing
nationals of the new Member States with access to our labour market
have been clear. Since 1 May 2004, accession workers have filled
vacancies in sectors which face shortages of labour, including
hospitality and catering and agriculture. They are contributing
to the success of the economy. They have not been a burden on
the benefit system or public services.
However, the terms of the accession treaty with
the new Member States make this a decision for an individual Member
State, at a time of their choosing during the period on which
the derogation on access to a Member State's labour market exists.
112. It would be in the EU's interest
to extend full free movement rights to the A8 countries as soon
as possible. Until that happens, it would be inappropriateand
inconsistent with the need for solidarity with the new Member
Statesto relax controls on the admission of third country
national workers (paragraph 26).
We share the Committee's view that the issue
of intra-EU mobility, in particular in relation to the new Member
States, should be addressed before additional proposals are considered
regarding the control of third country nationals entering the
EU for the purposes of employment.
All EEA Nationals, including those from the
accession states have a right of free movement throughout the
EEA. This right existed from date of accession. However the right
of movement as a worker was subject to a derogation which allows
individual Member States to set terms on which a national from
Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania,
Estonia and Latvia can access the labour market of another Member
The United Kingdom's experience of opening up
its labour market to nationals from the new Member States has
been a positive one. We agree that other Member States can note
our positive experience and this could assist them in making a
decision on when they will provide access to their labour markets,
but this is a matter for them. The new Member States might well
object if controls on the admission of third country national
workers were relaxed while there were still significant restrictions
on A8 workers' rights to free movement within the EU. This should
be a factor, although by no means the only one, in making decisions
on relaxing controls on the admission of third country nationals.
113. On the evidence of the last enlargement,
there is a strong case on economic grounds for according nationals
of new Member States free movement rights as early as possible
following accession, and for there to be a concerted position
across the existing Member States with limited opportunity for
them to operate different transitional periods (paragraph 27).
The next wave of enlargement is likely to consist
of Bulgaria and Romania, although a precise date of accession
has yet to be agreed. Whilst both countries nationals will have
a right of free movement from accession, access to another Member
State's labour market is subject to a derogation very similar
to that imposed on a number of states in 2004.
No Member State has yet made a decision on how
they will apply this derogation following accession. The UK will
make its decision at the appropriate time.
114. Managing the migration aspirations
of nationals of candidate countries, coupled with investment in
infrastructure and jobs in the candidate country, is the best
way to avoid fears of disruption to the labour market in the period
following accession (paragraph 28).
We agree. Before accession to the EU, a candidate
country must carry out substantial reforms which are subject to
rigorous scrutiny by the European Commission and Member States.
Many of the reforms that candidate countries must undertake in
order to meet the economic criteria for membership and the relevant
chapters of the acquis promote competitiveness, long-term growth
and employment. In particular, the requirement to restructure
state industries, reform public administration and ensure free
movement of capital, goods and workers. The Commission provides
funding to support this process of economic development through
a number of pre-accession funds. All of these measures provide
wider economic opportunities for citizens of candidate countries,
and thus reduce migration pressures in the period following accession.
We also agree that it is important to manage
expectations of candidate country nationals. Our overseas posts
play a key role in educating citizens of candidate countries about
the nature of the opportunities available in the UK for legal
The Government has not yet decided whether and
how to apply transitional arrangements on free movement workers
from the current candidate countries. The risk of disruption to
the UK labour market would, of course, be a factor in this decision.
115. Economic migration from outside
the present EU will continue to be needed (paragraph 29).
We agree that the UK economy is likely to continue
to need to admit people selectively from outside the EU where
they have particular skills that can benefit the UK and where
a demand for labour cannot be met from domestic sources or EU
116. We do not believe that it is possible
to set an overall limit for net immigration (paragraph 43).
We agree the UK needs a system which is flexible
and responsive, not a rigid, arbitrary quota.
117. We endorse the Government's view
that national economic considerations should remain the primary
determinant of the level of economic immigration, provided that
this is not at the expense of the interests of the other parties
involved, notably the sending countries and, most importantly,
the migrant workers themselves, whose rights must not be infringed
We are pleased that the Committee shares the
Government's view that national economic considerations should
remain the primary determinant of the level of economic immigration,
while taking due account of the interests of other parties. We
will continue efforts to mitigate the impact of skills losses
on vulnerable countries and sectors. We consider that the rights
of migrant workers are adequately protected in UK law, including
under the Human Rights Act 1998.
118. All forms of control of economic
migrationwork permits, sectoral schemes, quotas, Green
Cards and points systemsare difficult for State authorities
to operate efficiently, if only on account of incomplete knowledge
of the labour needs of different sectors of their own economy
and differing objectives relating to them. It would be much more
difficult, if not impracticable, to operate any of these methods
of control at EU level (paragraph 64).
We, once again, share the Committee's view on
the difficulty of operating a method of control which may not
reflect the individuality of Member States' labour markets.
119. We again urge the Government to
participate fully in EU immigration and asylum policy. We believe
that it would be to the advantage of the United Kingdom to do
so. It is damaging to be seen as only partially engaged in this
important area of policy. The United Kingdom's recent exclusion
from measures in which it would be in its interests to participate
underlines the increasing difficulty of maintaining its present
position and bears out, we regret to say, the warnings that we
have given to this effect in the past (paragraph 73).
The Government has noted the Committee's recommendation
for the UK to participate fully in EU immigration and asylum policy,
but does not agree that it is damaging to be seen as only partially
engaged. Our policy is clear. The UK opts in to Title IV measures
where we can, provided they are in the national interest and consistent
with our policy of retaining frontier controls. In practice, this
means we have tended to opt in to measures on asylum and illegal
migration, but do not tend to participate in legal migration measures.
We do not agree with the way in which the UK has been excluded
from certain measures; our challenge to the European Court of
Justice should provide clarity to the situation.
Consistently not participating in EU immigration
and asylum measures does lessen UK influence and risks isolating
us from a body of law that is largely of benefit. Therefore the
UK pursues the policy that it is in our broader interest to remain
as engaged as possible with the EU on these matters. It has been
the UK's policy since the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam to opt in to
all EU measures on asylum and immigration (Title IV TEC) that
are in the national interest and do not conflict with our desire
to retain control over our own borders.
120. While accepting that there is a
role for the EU in setting out some guiding principles, particularly
in providing protection for migrant workers, we see no case for
micro-management of admission for employment at EU level. Given
their very different economic situations, Member States need to
retain the ability to respond flexibly and promptly to their labour
market needs, which are unlikely to coincide across the EU. This
is more likely to meet the needs of companies than a cumbersome
central bureaucracy (paragraph 82).
The Government agrees that Member States need
to retain the ability to respond flexibly and quickly to national
labour market needs. Added value may be gained from an EU role
in setting out some guiding principles but not in seeking to micro-manage
employment admission policy.
121. Community preference is an important
principle supporting the fundamental freedom of movement of workers,
and we support its extension to resident third country nationals.
Its practical effect is inevitably limited by the low level of
labour mobility within the EU. It is important to avoid excessive
bureaucracy, and additional burdens should not be placed on employers
We would agree with the Committee that community
preference is an important principle with regard to allowing the
free movement of workers who are Member State nationals throughout
the EEA. This preference also applies in the UK to those third
country nationals that are settled here.
On extending this principle to those who are
settled in other Member States but are not EEA nationals, our
view is that our national interest and frontier policy should
take primacy; those people who are non-EEA nationals but resident
in an EU Member State should not be treated differently from other
122. In view of the wide differences
between the economies of the Member States and their need for
economic migrants, we are sceptical of the case for any detailed
regulation at EU level of admission for employment or self-employment.
We believe that the main scope for EU intervention is in ensuring
that the schemes operated by Member States are sufficiently transparent,
and protect the rights of migrant workers effectively (paragraph
We share the Committee's view that the main
scope for EU intervention may be in ensuring that schemes operated
by Member States are sufficiently transparent. We believe regulation
concerning rights for migrant workers is a matter for Member States.
123. There is no need for the EU to become
engaged in the detailed regulation of general self-employed migration
124. While an informal early warning
system may provide some reassurance to Member States, We see no
need for a more direct control of regularisations at EU level.
There is no reason to think that regularisations lead to immediate
large scale movement to other Member States (paragraph 90).
Regularisation campaigns in one Member State
do not necessarily impact immediately on other Member States.
However, that is not to say that the Member State carrying out
the regularisation does not attract more illegal immigration to
As the United Kingdom has not signed up to the
Long-term Residents Directive, we are not affected by the medium-term
impacts of regularisations in other Member States.
The UK shares its EU partners' commitment to
improve the exchange of information on national immigration and
asylum measures, and welcomes the Commission's proposed draft
decision to establish a web-based network.
125. The Government should commission
research into the likely costs and consequences of acceding to
the United Nations Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers
and seek to develop a political consensus towards it, both within
the United Kingdom and across the EU (paragraph 97).
We have no plans to commission such research.
126. We urge the Government to reconsider
the case for acceding to the Council of Europe Convention on migrant
workers (paragraph 99).
We have no plans to reconsider our position
on this Convention.
127. Differentiating between some migrant
workers and others on the basis of the length of their residence
in the territory can only be justified where there are very specific
reasons (paragraph 103).
There are specific reasons why some categories
of worker have a route to settlement and others do not and these
do not solely relate to skill level but, instead, to the purpose
of the scheme. The Committee has cited the example of seasonal
workers and au pairs. In the case of the UK's Seasonal Agricultural
Workers Scheme, this is a scheme under which workers are admitted
for an entirely temporary purpose i.e to pick seasonal crops.
Furthermore, participants are overseas students who we might reasonably
expect to return overseas to resume their studies. In the case
of our arrangements for au pairs, this is not primarily a labour
scheme but rather a youth mobility scheme which offers participants
the opportunity to come here and gain some knowledge of the English
language and way of life before returning overseas. Given the
purpose of these schemes it seems quite reasonable that they should
not lead to permanent residence.
We do not think that, in principle, low-skilled
migration schemes should lead to permanent residence here. The
net long-term benefits of admitting low-skilled workers permanently
are less clear that they are in the case of highly skilled workers.
If they are being admitted to undertake low paid work, there is
inevitably a question about the balance between the economic contribution
they would make and the burden that they and their families might
in the long run place on the welfare system and public services.
128. We once again urge the Government
to opt into both the Long-term Residents Directive and the Family
Reunification Directive. Such a move would strengthen the rights
of the United Kingdom's economic migrants and enable them to enjoy
equality with economic migrants in the rest of the EU (paragraph
UK policy is to opt in to Title IV measures
where we can, provided they are consistent with our policy of
retaining frontier controls.
We have consistently not opted into legal migration
measures such as the Family Reunification Directive and Long-term
Residents Directive because we wish to retain our frontier control
and maintain domestic control over who is admitted to the UK,
as provided for by our protocol on Title IV of the Amsterdam treaty.
The Long-term Residents Directive would give
long term residents from one Member State the effective right
to enter a second Member State and apply for residence there,
provided they met certain conditions. We believe that, whilst
the Directive contains many provisions which are entirely consistent
with our policy on participation in EU immigration measures, giving
third country nationals an enforceable right to enter the UK conflicts
with that policy.
In view of this, we will not be reviewing our
decision to opt out of these Directives. In remaining outside
these Directives it is not the Government's intention that the
UK should be seriously out of line with our European partners
and we will continue to monitor the UK's position in relation
to that of other Member States.
129. In order to address the categories
of economic migrants who do not benefit from the Long-term Residents
Directive, we recommend that further provision be made to grant
to all third country national migrant workers:
the right to change employers
after 12 months' continuous lawful employment;
the right to a reasonable period
(not less than six months) to seek employment in the event of
the termination of previous employment; and
equality as regards social rights
(at least core benefits) (paragraph 106).
Legal migrants, including those from third countries,
have the same employment rights as any UK workers in a similar
situation. Any third country nationals admitted to the UK for
employment on the basis of a work permit can already change employment
at any time during their stay although they need to make a new
application on the basis of their new employment.
Should the employment end without new employment
starting, then the basis of the third country national's stay
in the UK is at an end and they are expected to make arrangements
to leave. We have no plans to provide for a right to all third
country national workers to seek a new job in the event of a termination
of employment, although there is scope for discretion in applying
this principle to individual cases.
The implications of granting third country national
migrant workers equality as regards social rights are potentially
very broad, and must be balanced against the costs. However, it
is worth noting that third country national migrant workers already
have access to contributory benefits on the same basis as UK nationals.
130. We see little justification within
a single market for differentiating at national level as regards
the rights of migrant workers. We recommend that the provision
of a common core of rights for migrant workers should be the focus
of an EU policy on economic migration (paragraph 107).
In the UK legal migrant workers already have
the same employment rights as UK workers. As already stated, all
third country nationals also have access to contributory benefits
on the same basis as UK workers. However, non-EEA nationals working
in the UK do not have access to income related benefits. This
is because they are normally issued with a work permit for a specific
employer and limited leave on the understanding that there is
no recourse to public funds. This strikes the right balance between
providing social insurance and protecting the public purse.
Our policy is clearthat we will opt into
those EU measures that are in the national interest and consistent
with retaining frontier controls. We believe that access to benefits
for migrant workers who are third country nationals and do not
have existing rights under EU law should remain a matter for individual
Member States and do not believe that any common core of rights
at EU level should extend into this area.