Image for post
Image for post

Covid-19 Halts UK Migration but Not Brexit

Henley & Partners
Aug 12, 2020 · 2 min read

Rob McNeil, Deputy Director and Head of Media and Communications at the Migration Observatory the University of Oxford in the UK

The sudden closure of businesses and travel routes during the Covid-19 crisis has had profound consequences for migration to and from the UK, and for migrants living, working, and studying in the country.

Passenger arrivals by air into the UK in April 2020 were 99% lower than the previous year. This almost complete end of international passenger arrivals into the country generated serious challenges for industries that have become dependent on seasonal migrant workers from the EU — notably agriculture, which has sourced most of its seasonal labor from the EU over the last decade, with the industry forced to launch a ‘pick for Britain’ campaign to attempt to meet labor demand.

Elsewhere in the economy the situation was also starkly different, with rocketing claims for unemployment benefits and a collapse in job vacancies. The hospitality industry — a sector often staffed by low-waged EU migrant workers — was almost completely shut down for months, with huge impacts on both employers and staff. Mothballed businesses and unemployment have also highlighted for the precarious position of the nearly 1.4 million non-EU migrants with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ conditions attached to their visas who will be at risk of serious financial problems if they become unemployed.

Meanwhile, falling public concerns about immigration reduced further during the crisis. Support for migrant key workers — particularly those in the National Health Service (NHS) — generated concessions to reduce risks of impoverishment or removal for family dependents of non-EU NHS workers who die from Covid-19.

But softening attitudes did not slow down the Brexit process. In May, the government pushed through the new Immigration Bill, paving the way for a new ‘points-based’ immigration system. The new restrictions would prevent many people becoming key workers in the UK in future. Around half of the EU citizens currently in key worker positions in the UK would not meet the new salary and skills thresholds required to move to the UK from 2021.

Henley & Partners

The Global Leader in Residence and Citizenship Planning

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store