Brexit bills will require a rapid response

ON WEDNESDAY last week, the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 was given Royal Assent and signed into law.

In six weeks, at 11pm on 31 December, free movement will end and the UK will decide ‘who comes into the country based on the skills they have to offer – not where they are from’.

It is a momentous step, which the UK government says will restore faith in the immigration system.

Just three working days after the bill secured Her Majesty’s assent, Home Affairs and Policy & Resources published a 44-page document recommending that the relevant acts are extended to the Bailiwick.

That policy letter goes before the States Assembly this Wednesday.

It is a lightning-fast turnaround.

Granted, Home Affairs had the paperwork in hand and was waiting for the green light.

But the dizzying pace is one the islands will have to get used to as the end of the year and the ultimate Brexit deadline approaches.

Deal or no deal, the transition will be a huge test of the speed and flexibility of the islands’ politicians, legal teams and civil servants.

The challenge is all the greater, of course, because of the uncertainty over negotiations. Today should have been the day Brexit got done. EU leaders were supposed to be signing off the deal at their virtual gathering in Brussels.

But thanks to several stumbling blocks, particularly fishing, the brinkmanship goes on.

All of which perhaps explains why the immigration policy letter going before the States offers only half the story.

It ends free movement. But for the islands, what replaces it?

We remain part of the Common Travel Area, but how exactly does the Bailiwick operate within UK borders?

What barriers, for example, might a chef, waiter or nurse coming to these islands from the Continent or further afield face as they transit through a UK airport or port?

To work in the UK they would need to obtain a visa with points for skills, job prospects, earnings and English skills.

The island will instead want an agreement that allows workers and employers to bypass such external controls with ease.

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