Northern Ireland

Brexit: Employers 'will bear migration costs', say experts

Customs control
Image caption The British and Irish governments have pledged to continue the Common Travel Area between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland following Brexit

The UK's post-Brexit immigration rules will have to be policed mainly by employers, experts have told a Westminster committee.

Iain McLean and Jim Gallagher gave written evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC).

They said that maintaining the Common Travel Area (CTA) will make it impractical to assess people's right to work as they enter the UK.

Therefore, those restrictions "can only be policed at the workplace".

The CTA is important because it allows free movement of people across the Irish border and between Great Britain and the island of Ireland.

'Point control'

After Brexit, EU citizens will continue to have freedom of movement to Ireland and the CTA will mean they can easily enter the UK.

The British and Irish governments have pledged to continue the CTA between Northern Ireland and the Republic as a post-Brexit priority.

Professors McLean and Gallagher said there is "no reasonable likelihood of the Republic agreeing that its immigration authorities might check visitors' right to work in the UK".

They said there will instead have to be "point control" - meaning people's right to work, study or access healthcare will have to be policed by employers, colleges and clinics.

They warned this will impose a regulatory cost on employers, which will be "unavoidable" if the UK decides not to maintain free movement of labour to and from the EU.

Policy control

They added that it could also could lead to "large numbers of illegal migrants, living insecurely".

However, they said it could also give the devolved administrations the power to control some aspects of migration policy.

"There is no reason why the devolved administrations need take the same approach to issuing work permits as the government of the UK in its capacity as the government of England," they added.

Prof Gallagher is a former senior civil servant who specialised in devolution policy; Prof McLean is director of the Gwilym Gibbon Centre for Public Policy at Oxford University.

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