(Title Image: National Assembly of Wales/External Affairs Committee)
Yesterday, AMs debated the External Affairs Committee report on changes to freedom of movement after Brexit – summarised here.
Biggest change to immigration rules in decades
Chair of the Committee, David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) said proposed post-Brexit immigration changes were some of the biggest policy shifts in decades – namely the creation of a points-based system and a minimum salary threshold for prospective immigrants of £30,000-a-year.
“There is clearly a role for both Governments to play here in providing not only advice and support to EU citizens accessing the scheme, but also in providing reassurance that their status will be secure and permanent after Brexit. It is for this reason that we call upon the Welsh Government to provide a stronger lead in signposting citizens to the package of measures it has in place to support them and to reiterate its messages of support loudly to EU citizens here.”
– Chair of the External Affairs Committee, David Rees AM
David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) picked out the salary threshold as the major issue arising from the inquiry and it would have a negative impact on recruitment in sectors which pay mainly below £30,000-a-year – such as social care. He suggested amending any future points-based system so new immigrants seeking work in Wales receive more points.
Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) later pointed out that while the average Welsh salary was below the proposed salary cap, there was very little concern over “golden visas” granted to high earners and investors in London – a system which has been linked to money laundering.
Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid, South Wales East) described the “devastating” testimony from EU citizens the Committee talked to during the inquiry and the sense that the rhetoric around Brexit and the bureaucracy around the settled status scheme had made them feel unwelcome – including those who have children born in the UK.
While David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) agreed that the rights of EU citizens permanently resident in the UK should be respected, his claim that “indigenous population” had their rights eroded by the exploitation of immigrants didn’t go down well with the rest of the chamber. Both himself and Mandy Jones AM (BXP, North Wales) said uncontrolled immigration was one of the main reasons people voted Leave in 2016.
“Our common European home, so often the place where we fought our civil wars, became a place where we could reach out and not build further walls. It’s no coincidence that those border posts also were marked by the images of warfare. Moving beyond those borders and looking at a world through the spectacles of, ‘Are you indigenous? Am I indigenous? Is somebody else indigenous?’, has led to one of the greatest freedoms that we have all enjoyed.”
– Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent)
There’ll always be a welcome for EU citizens in Wales
Speaking directly to EU citizens, Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles (Lab, Neath), said their contributions were appreciated and there would always be a welcome for them here.
“….throughout the last three and a half years, I’ve been shocked by some of the occasionally thoughtless language that politicians have used, particularly in relation to EU citizens in this country, and I’ve been appalled to hear the use of language such as ‘indigenous populations’ and ‘mass immigration’, which are well-established dog-whistle terms, and we’ve heard them today in this Chamber from politicians in a way that is not thoughtless, actually, but deliberate.”
– Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles
There was still a level of uncertainty over how immigration will work after Brexit, other than a date of it coming into force being 1st January 2021. The Welsh Government continues to oppose the £30,000 salary threshold and didn’t believe any points-based system was compatible with salary requirements.
He took up David Melding’s suggestion of making a case to London for additional points for immigrants seeking to work in Wales or any other part of the UK where migration levels are low.