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Queen's Speech sets out government’s proposed legislative programme and heralds major changes for immigration


Speech gives details of the government's policies and agenda for the new Brexit-dominated parliamentary session

Date of Publication:
19 December 2019

Queen's Speech sets out new government's proposed legislative programme and heralds major changes for immigration

19 December 2019

The Conservative government's agenda has been set out in today's Queen's Speech and it heralds major changes for immigration.

The 151-page background briefing notes for the speech, which are available here, provide further details of the government's policies and proposed legislative programme for the new parliamentary session.

Brexit is set to dominate the session and, as we most recently reported on Monday, the new "Australian-style points-based system" will be the headline change for immigration after the UK leaves the EU.

The revised European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-20, as introduced today, is available to read here.

The background briefing notes for the Queen's Speech also set out some details on forthcoming 'foreign national offenders legislation' which will be aimed at "maximising the removal of foreign national offenders and deterring them from returning to the UK."

We've excerpted the relevant sections on immigration from the briefing notes below:



Prime Minister's Office
10 Downing Street

19 December 2019


Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

"A modern, fair, points-based immigration system will welcome skilled workers from across the world to contribute to the United Kingdom's economy, communities and public services."

The purpose of the Bill is to:

• Bring an end to free movement in UK law, to ensure that the Government can deliver a new Australian-style points-based immigration system from 2021.

• Make EU citizens arriving from 2021 subject to the same UK immigration controls as non-EU citizens, to enable the Government to deliver a single global immigration system based on people's skills.

• Protect the long-standing immigration status of Irish citizens when free movement ends.

• Enable the Government to deliver future changes to social security coordination policy.

The main benefits of the Bill would be:

• Paving the way for a new points-based immigration system, which will be based on people's skills and contributions to the UK, so that we attract the brightest and best people from the whole world following the UK's departure from the EU.

• Ensuring that the UK can set new rules on access to benefits and social security co-ordination that are in the national interest, including the ability to align the entitlement of EU citizens arriving after January 2021 to access taxpayer funded benefits with that of non-EU citizens.

The main elements of the Bill are:

• Ending the free movement of EU citizens under UK law.

• The power to align the treatment of EU citizens with non-EU citizens from 2021.

• The power to make changes to the current rules for access to benefits and social security co-ordination.

Territorial extent and application

• The Bill's provisions would extend and apply to the whole of the UK. Immigration policy is a reserved matter, with some social security policy devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Wider measures

• In addition to the Immigration Bill, the Government will create visa schemes for new migrants who will fill shortages in our public services, including a fasttrack NHS scheme. We will also increase the annual quota for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme we are piloting from 2,500 to 10,000.

• Our new immigration system will require new arrivals to contribute to the funding of the NHS and we will increase the health surcharge, for those staying in the UK for more than six months, to ensure it covers the full cost of use.

Key facts

• The Home Secretary has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (the MAC) to consider points-based systems, including the Australian immigration system and other international comparators. The MAC is due to report in January 2020.

• Developing and reinforcing UK immigration controls and ending free movement will give the Government greater control to reduce the overall number of migrants coming to the UK, with fewer lower skilled migrants. Our new single system will allocate points on a range of criteria in three broad categories and it will be focused on skills and talents, not nationality:

○ Migrants who have received world-leading awards or otherwise demonstrated exceptional talent and sponsored entrepreneurs setting up a new business or investors.

○ Skilled workers who meet the criteria of the points-based system and have a job offer.

○ Sector-specific workers who enter on schemes for low-skilled work, youth mobility or short-term visits. These provide no route to permanent settlement and will be revised on an ongoing basis based on expert advice from the MAC.

• We will outline further details of a new immigration and border system in due course.

• The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill will include measures to ensure that resident European citizens, who have built their lives in, and contributed so much to, the United Kingdom, have the right to remain.

• There are an estimated 3.4 million EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, and their family members, living in the UK.

• The Government is delivering certainty to these individuals through the EU Settlement Scheme which has been established in Immigration Rules made under the Immigration Act 1971.

• The EU Settlement Scheme is working well: Home Office figures show that by the end of November, nearly 2.6 million applications have been made and over 2.2 million people have been granted status under UK law.

• The UK immigration status granted under the Scheme guarantees that EU citizens and their family members can carry on with their lives here broadly as before we left the EU.

• For Irish citizens, there will be no change to their rights to freely enter and live in the UK. Restrictions will continue to exist as they do now if they are subject to a deportation order, exclusion order or international travel ban.


Foreign national offenders legislation

The purpose of the legislation is to:

• Enhance our ability to deal effectively with foreign national offenders (FNOs).

The main benefits of the legislation would be:

• Disrupting the activities of increasingly mobile and sophisticated organised criminal networks which facilitate the illegal return of foreign national offenders.

• Maximising the removal of foreign national offenders and deterring them from returning to the UK.

The main elements of the legislation are:

• Increasing the maximum penalty for foreign national offenders who return to the UK in breach of a deportation order.

• Other measures may be brought that will make it easier to deport foreign national offenders.

Territorial extent and application

• The legislation's provisions would extend and apply to the whole of the UK. Immigration policy is a reserved matter.

Key facts

• Foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.

• The Government has removed more than 50,000 foreign national offenders since the start of the financial year 2010-11.

• We removed 5,322 foreign national offenders in the last financial year (2018-19), of whom 3,633 were EEA foreign national offenders. This includes over 2,000 Foreign National Offenders removed directly from prison under the Early Removal Scheme.


Science, space and research


• The UK's new fast-track immigration scheme for top scientists and researchers will help significantly enhance the intellectual and knowledge base of the UK. The changes to the immigration system will:

○ Abolish the cap on numbers under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas;

○ Expand the pool of UK research institutes and universities able to endorse candidates; and

○ Create criteria that confer automatic endorsement, subject to immigration checks.

• Under the current Tier 1 Visa system, the immigration system already:

○ Ensures dependents have full access to the labour market;

○ Removes the need to hold an offer of employment before arriving; and

○ Provides an accelerated path to settlement.

• This new immigration scheme will support our world-leading research by ensuring that UK teams can recruit the best skills and talent from abroad. We will continue to collaborate internationally and with the EU on scientific research, including with the EU through Horizon.