Archive for the ‘Migration’ Category

Immigration is no longer the most pressing concern among the electorate

Immigration is no longer the most pressing concern among the electorate going into this election that it was prior to the Brexit referendum, writes Jonathan Wadsworth (LSE). More than three years on, concerns about Europe have eclipsed anything else, including the NHS, defence, the environment and unemployment as well as immigration. However, immigration remains a highly contentious issue and its purported effects on the labour market and the wider economy are still highly contested.

Most people have a sense that immigration has risen a lot in the UK recently. And indeed it has. About 9.5 million UK residents are immigrants, some one in seven (14.3%) of people now in the UK are immigrants, up from 3.8 million (7% of the UK population in the mid 1990s). This average rise disguises much more varied changes over time across and within regions, across occupations and industries.

Economists have long understood that these events reflect immigration decisions about where to go and what to do which are influenced by assessments of the costs and benefits of a move to another country. Individuals can decide to move and indeed leave or migrate elsewhere if economic and/or political conditions shift in favour of migration to other countries. Firms can decide to utilise migrant labour, train more, pay more, mechanise or move location  according to their own assessments of the relative costs and benefits of each option. Government policy and the performance of the economy also influence these costs and befits. The number of immigrants in the UK is also therefore a reflection of a series of economic and political events that have made the UK relatively more or less attractive to migrants over time. Equally, the attractiveness of the UK to migrants from outside the UK is influenced by relative economic circumstances but also by the relative costs of entry embodied in the visa and entry system.

Image by Danny HowardSome rights reserved.

Measure for measure

Knowing the number of immigrants living in the UK is something of an inexact science. There is no official count of the number of resident immigrants, nor of inflows and outflows, despite, until recently, net inflows being a longstanding government target. Instead, there are different household surveys that are used to estimate these various stocks and flows. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has a preferred measure of counting immigration flows (the numbers arriving and the numbers leaving), based on analysis of the International Passenger Survey (IPS). This method has recently been downgraded to ‘experimental’ status because of concerns with coverage and weighting  (see ONS, 2019, for a detailed discussion).

The only official data set that can provide a regular, timely estimate of the total number of immigrants living in the UK (not just the yearly flows in and out) is the Labour Force Survey/Annual Population Survey (LFS). This is the same survey that is used to measure the unemployment rate in the UK. The LFS also has detailed information on the characteristics of immigrants and those born in the UK. So if we want to compare, say, the educational attainment of immigrants and the UK-born, or where immigrants live, or whether immigrants are more or less likely to be unemployed, or the effect of immigration on the wages of the UK-born, the LFS is practically the only UK data set that can be used to investigate these and other related issues.

Currently, the two survey sources are sending conflicting signals. The LFS-based count says that the immigrant population has been static, and may have even fallen a little since 2017. In contrast, the IPS says that net inflows (inflows minus outflows) to the UK by immigrants have been resiliently positive, in the order of 250,000 a year even using the intermediate revisions made by the ONS to the IPS data. If more immigrants are coming to the UK than leaving, immigration must be rising. The two surveys are saying different things.

Admittedly both data sources use different definitions of immigrants. The LFS defines immigrants based on country of birth and usual residence. The IPS uses nationality, as shown on respondents’ passports, to define immigrant status with an additional qualification that the survey respondent intends to stay for 12 months or more. So part of the difference is likely to be due to this. So both may be right. Equally, both may be wrong for different reasons.

But the central point is that policy formulation and informed debate about immigration are currently compromised by the ambiguity in the data.

IPS says up

LFS says not

Immigration’s effects

Immigration still seems to matter much more politically than it does economically. Immigration’s effects on most areas of the economy appear to be small. There are neither large negative effects, nor large positive effects.

It is sometimes suggested that immigration could compromise public services by increasing demand and competition for publicly provided resources. Unlike the UK-born population, a majority of immigrants are in employment and so are over-represented among the total number in work. Immigrants are, however, a little over-represented in the unemployed and economically inactive populations, but under-represented among children and pensionable age populations – because they tend to arrive as adults and not all migrants sty in the UK until pensionable age (or the current cohort of migrants have not been in the UK long enough to reach pensionable age). Immigrants are younger and therefore more likely to be healthier. They are also more highly qualified on average than the UK population, and more likely to be in (higher paid) work than the average UK-born individual. Together all this underlies the reason why several studies, summarised by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC, 2018) find that immigrants are net fiscal contributors, paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits and, as such, are less likely to put pressure on public services like the NHS or schools.

Immigration policy options

The policy options offered by the different political parties in this election vary from retaining the existing system to a points-based system that shows no favour for EU migrants over non-EU migrants.

Immigration to the UK contains three distinct groups: workers and their families; students; and refugees. All three groups are covered by different rules and visa schemes. Future policy has to balance the costs and benefits of changing the rules for each area. A new government has to decide essentially who gets in, for how long and at what cost among the many disparate groups of potential immigrants. This is not an easy task.

The immediate consequences of Brexit, if it happens, may be very different from what governments may want from a long-term immigration strategy. Policy may have to be designed flexibly to address the resulting short-term versus long-term issues.

With regard to the labour market, firms with labour shortages can train more, automate more, change work practices (such as pay or working conditions) or move instead of using labour from abroad. Indeed, it may well be that the change in direction of EU immigration flows following Brexit has already forced some adjustment by firms, so the immediate migration response of increased outflows and a fall in inflows after the vote has forced firms to address the new reality without there being any change in policy. If not, sector-specific and time-limited or seasonal migration schemes (from the EU or elsewhere) could allow workers into the less skilled sectors until businesses had adapted to the new policy environment. The downside of such a policy is that sectors may postpone any changes to their business model.

Any quotas or work visas for EU nationals after Brexit are also likely to favour graduate sector jobs. This is partly because the existing immigration policy for non-EU citizens is almost exclusively restricted to graduate-level jobs and partly because the net fiscal contribution from graduates is likely to be higher than from non-graduate jobs. Whether there are more shortages in this area or in the vocational sector due to the UK’s relatively poor training record (OECD, 2017) is open to discussion. It may be that a revised shortage list could be broadened, again, to include the type of shortage vocational jobs that were originally on the list.

Immigration could also be targeted at individuals rather than jobs, effectively reverting to a points-based system, a form of which was in place in the UK in the late 2000s but subsequently dropped by the coalition government of 2010-2015. Coming up with a coherent points system is not an easy thing to do, (the MAC are currently tasked with looking in to it). Targeting individual graduates may not help graduate sectors if the graduates migrate to less skilled occupations.

Occupation-based entry shortage schemes rather than individual points-based entry have the advantage that labour market signals can better determine which sectors are in shortage. Letting firms and workers interact within informed general government imposed guidelines (such as restricting entry to graduate or higher paying jobs) is probably a better way to get good job matches. Restricting by occupation rather than people will probably reduce migration flows more, since the set of eligible occupations is easier to restrict than a set of eligible individuals.

Limiting immigration to those with job offers in certain occupations does not, however, automatically restrict migration to these sectors. Students can work in the UK before and after graduation. Non-EEA family migrants can work in any sector in the UK. Firms can bring in employees from international subsidiaries in occupations not on a shortage list (inter-company transfers). Workers can leave jobs for other sectors.

There are also issues of regional or, more likely, country-specific immigration schemes to consider. Scotland has some additional leeway over its work route since it has its own shortage occupation list. Country/regional-based schemes are easier to operate with temporary visas. With permanent residence, individuals can move away from the area that sought to attract migrants, which can then negate the effect of the policy to attract migrants. But temporary visas bring other problems in the form of monopsony issues. If individuals are tied to a particular employer, this gives the employer more power over a worker than if the worker were free to choose where to work. Temporary visas increase the likelihood that some individuals may overstay the length of their visa.

The Immigration Skills Charge on any firm hiring labour from outside the EU has been in place since 2017. It is too early to tell whether this has deterred some firms from hiring, but knowledge of this policy and its effects would be welcome in helping decide whether and how to extend to hiring workers from the EU.


The options for future immigration policy are many and varied and there are no easy answers as to what to do or what to prioritise. Whichever party is in power after the election may well have an immigration policy that , like so many policies in the UK, evolves and reacts to events and the unforeseen consequences of previous actions.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. The report on which this blog is based is available here: CEP Election Analysis: Immigration.

UK Lib Dems struggle to convince on canceling Brexit

LONDON — They may be flying the flag for the EU in the U.K.’s upcoming election, but the Liberal Democrat promise to cancel Brexit isn’t landing as well as they hoped — even with continental Europeans who have recently become Brits.

Roughly 130,000 EU nationals have secured U.K. passports since the 2016 Brexit referendum and will now be able to vote in the December 12 election. While they are unlikely to sway the overall result since they are spread across the country, many are passionate about expressing their view at the ballot box.

With leader Jo Swinson pledging to cancel Brexit outright, the Liberal Democrats might have hoped to position themselves as the clear pro-Remain option — and as such the natural home of EU citizens who have settled in the U.K.

But concern over disregarding the result of the referendum, the party’s broader ideology and competition from other pro-EU parties has meant they are not the only choice for these new Brits.

“It was a massive democratic process that was put in place, you cannot just cancel it,” said Nando Sigona, chair of international migration at the University of Birmingham, who moved from Italy to the U.K. 18 years ago and got his British passport in August. “I accept the need for another referendum, rather than just cancel. This is why I feel more close to the Labour position.”

“The only reason why the Liberal Democrats switched to the hard revoke position [on Brexit] was because they thought Labour was going to go for a referendum with Remain” — Joe Twyman, director of Deltapoll

Canceling Brexit “would have long-term consequences on the democratic process and the structure of the country, which has already been very much shaken by what’s happened in the last few years,” he added.

Sigona’s academic research has focused on the attitudes of EU nationals in Brexit Britain. He said many others are also looking elsewhere at the coming election. The Scottish government’s welcoming message towards Europeans and its aversion to Brexit, for example, has made many feel at home and they are willing to thank the Scottish National Party at the ballot box, he said.

“From our research, there was quite a strong alignment of the people that we spoke to with the SNP,” he said. “Some people said ‘now I feel Scottish as well’ and ‘I feel allowed to be Scottish and German, or Scottish and Dutch’ and they said, ‘you know, in England this is never possible’ … In a sense the English identity is not available for foreigners.”

Joe Twyman, director of the polling company Deltapoll, said the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit policy appears not to be resonating in the wider campaign as well as the party had hoped.


For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

“The only reason why the Liberal Democrats switched to the hard revoke position [on Brexit] was because they thought Labour was going to go for a referendum with Remain, and steal their positioning on that,” he said.

Twyman added that, so far, the party has failed to dominate with its strong pro-EU position. “Since the European elections, [the party’s] position has dropped off in the polls, suggesting it is not just about Brexit for people now,” he said.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake rejected the idea that their position was undemocratic.

“If we receive a democratic mandate through a general election and the biggest swing in parliamentary history to stop Brexit, then that is what we will do,” he said. “Otherwise, we will continue to advocate for a People’s Vote, with an option to Remain [in the EU]. The more Liberal Democrat MPs elected to parliament, the more chance we have of stopping Brexit.”

Tactical votes

For other new Brits, however, a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a tactical option.

Monique Hawkins, a software developer from the Netherlands who has lived almost continuously in the U.K. since 1984, said she prefers Labour’s Brexit policy because she feels “very strongly” that the U.K. should not leave the EU without a confirmatory referendum. But she will back the Liberal Democrats, because of a mix of tactical voting and agreement with the party’s broader values.

Some younger voters still remember the Liberal Democrats’ broken promise over university tuition fees while they were part of the coalition government led by David Cameron.

In her constituency, Esher and Walton in South East England, the current MP is Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Labour ranked second in the 2017 election with 19.7 percent of the vote, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 17.3 percent. But this time, Raab risks losing his seat to the Liberal Democrats, according to recent polls.

Hawkins defended Swinson’s stance on Brexit, saying it was a “tactical” choice. “She was never going to be the prime minister and have the largest party. So I think they can say that in order to be a clear opposition to [the Conservative slogan of] ‘get Brexit done.’ The whole fight is very dirty,” she said.

“And the Labour position is actually very sensible, like, ‘let’s have a deal, which better reflects a compromise and then put that to a referendum.’ I actually agree with that position more, but it’s not very sellable in a sound bite.”

Blaming Nick Clegg

Of course, many of these new Brits are motivated by other issues, particularly immigration, public services and the environment.

Katia Widlak, a Unison trade union worker who moved from France to the U.K. in 1999 and became a British citizen last year, said she is willing to accept Jeremy Corbyn’s ambiguity over Brexit. Choosing a party that treats immigrants “in a decent way” is the main issue for her.

“The Tories are always talking about cutting the numbers, the points system, attracting ‘the brightest and the best,’” she said. “For me, a political party has to deliver more than just a single base issue. It’s a broader picture. It’s about your values as well.”

Some younger voters still remember the Liberal Democrats’ broken promise over university tuition fees while they were part of the coalition government led by David Cameron. Swinson has apologized for this decision, but the issue continues to rankle with many.

“There’s a big divide in the country, there’s a big uncertainty as to what is going to happen”  — David Arvidsson-Shukur, doctor in physics

“I’m never going to vote for the Lib Dems,” said David Arvidsson-Shukur, a doctor in physics at the University of Cambridge. Originally Swedish, Arvidsson-Shukur moved to Durham in 2010 and became a British citizen in the summer of 2018.

“I came to the U.K. just after [former Lib Dem leader] Nick Clegg said they would never increase tuition fees and then they increased them whilst I was a student here. The picture I have of the Lib Dems is that they are not a very serious party.”

Arvidsson-Shukur, who is voting Labour, does not believe this election will radically change how Brexit is delivered, so he is prioritizing other issues when deciding his vote, including parties’ support for education, research and innovation, and the fight against climate change and inequality.

“The political landscape now is mainly negative,” he said. “There’s a big divide in the country, there’s a big uncertainty as to what is going to happen. It seems like it is an important vote, so maybe [I feel] more cautious than excited.”

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Immigration policy and the manifestos: more nuanced than before but still obscure

While the three main parties’ manifestos reveal a more nuanced approach to immigration than in previous campaigns, there will be plenty of blanks to fill in for future policy, no matter who wins on the election, explains Marley Morris.

So far in this election campaign, migration has largely bubbled under the surface of public debate, given the overriding focus on the parties’ spending plans and the ongoing clashes over Brexit. But a study of the party’s manifestos suggests that, despite this lack of focus, the election is almost certain to be a turning point for migration policy. All three of the main parties are pledging a new direction on migration, signalling a difference in approach from Theresa May’s punitive and restrictive agenda. Yet while the direction is broadly positive, the detail is sorely lacking.

The Conservative manifesto struck a purposefully different note on immigration compared to its platform under Theresa May. It is true that, just as in 2017, the overarching aim of the Conservative immigration policy is to end freedom of movement and bring overall numbers down. But this time round, there is a new liberal tone to the agenda: the much-derided net migration target has been jettisoned and there are a range of proposals intended to liberalise the system, from a fast-track visa for NHS professionals to a post-study work route for international students and a start-up visa for entrepreneurs.

Responding to last year’s Windrush scandal, the manifesto says ‘we will overhaul the immigration system, and make it more fair and compassionate’. While the 2017 manifesto talked primarily of bearing down on immigration, the language of the new manifesto is centred on control, contribution and fairness. Yet at the heart of the Conservative offer on immigration is a striking ambiguity. The manifesto promises a new ‘Australian-style’ points-based system. This is a popular idea with voters, as attested by British Future and Hope not Hate’s National Conversation on Immigration. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is more a slogan than a policy – one intended to symbolise a hard-line approach to immigration while simultaneously offering reassuring signals to business. How this plays out in practice is less clear.

On the one hand, a points-based system could signal a shift towards introducing faster pathways to settlement, greater powers for nations and regions to determine their own skills needs, and new visa routes that prioritise the personal characteristics of applicants over stringent salary requirements – all hallmarks of the Australian model. On the other hand, it could signal a more selective approach, heaping on additional requirements for migrants to make it harder to enter the UK for work.

The matter is further confused by the manifesto’s claim that ‘most people coming into the country will need a clear job offer’. This is notably in tension with the points-based proposal, given one of the distinctive aspects of the Australian policy is that some work visas allow migrants to enter the country without an employer to sponsor them. As for the promise that Windrush was ‘horrific’ and that ‘we will ensure it never happens again’ – this is welcome but needs to be backed by firm and concrete action, given the ongoing injustice suffered by the Windrush generation and the risks of a new crisis emerging for EU citizens after Brexit.

If the Conservative manifesto aims to now steer immigration policy away from the approach adopted under Theresa May’s tenure, the Labour manifesto intends to change course entirely. Labour‘s commitments to rolling back the hostile environment, tackling the exploitation of migrants, and addressing skills shortages in the economy mark a change in direction to a more positive agenda on immigration. But apart from some very specific proposals – such as repealing the 2014 Immigration Act, including the ‘right to rent’ landlord checks, and closing the Yarl’s Wood and Brook House detention centres – there is again a lack of detail in their future plans. What will their new immigration system look like? How precisely will they end the ‘hostile environment’ and what will be the outcome of their review of border controls? And what approach do they intend to adopt in negotiating on freedom of movement with the EU?

Lastly, the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto perhaps provides the most detail on immigration. As with Labour, they set out a number of proposals marking a decisive break with the status quo, including maintaining freedom of movement, ensuring asylum seekers have the right to work after three months, and repealing various elements of the hostile environment. But even here the core elements of a future immigration system are shrouded in obscurity.

The Liberal Democrats propose to replace visas for skilled workers with a ‘more flexible merit-based system’. But this leaves open a whole host of questions relating to how such a policy should work in practice – and how indeed it differs from the Conservatives’ proposal for an ‘Australian-style’ points-based system.

All three of the main parties’ manifestos reveal a more nuanced approach to immigration than in previous election campaigns. There is a welcome recognition that arbitrary numerical targets have failed. There is a renewed focus on developing an immigration system that supports the UK’s economic ambitions. And in light of the Windrush scandal, there is – albeit to varying degrees – an acknowledgment of the flaws and iniquities in the current approach to immigration enforcement. But there will be plenty of blanks to fill in for future immigration policy, no matter who wins on 12 December.


About the Author

Marley Morris is IPPR’s Associate Director for Immigration, Trade and EU Affairs.



All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of LSE British Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Featured image credit: Pixabay/Public Domain.

Net migration from EU into UK at lowest level since 2003, ONS says

Numbers are lower than before EU8 countries such as Poland and Lithuania joined bloc

Net migration from the EU into the UK is at its lowest level since before the bloc was enlarged to take in countries including Poland and Lithuania, figures suggest.

The difference between EU nationals arriving and leaving in the year ending June 2019 was 48,000, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show, the lowest level since 2003, when it was 15,000 and before the so-called EU8 countries joining the union: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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Net migration to UK falls to lowest level in 6 years

LONDON — Net migration to Britain fell to its lowest level in six years during the year to June, official statistics released today show.

In its latest quarterly report on migration, the Office of National Statistics said 212,000 more people moved to the U.K. than left, the lowest total since the year to September 2013.

The ONS said the drop was driven by a fall in the number of EU citizens moving to Britain since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

EU net migration (+48,000) has fallen since 2016 — although more EU citizens continue to arrive and stay long term than leave — because of a decrease in EU citizens coming to the U.K. looking for work.

Meanwhile, non-EU net migration (+229,000) has gradually increased since 2013, mainly because of a rise in people coming to the U.K. to study.

Scottish National Party’s manifesto explained

LONDON — The Scottish National Party launched its manifesto with a promise to end austerity and a list of conditions for Jeremy Corbyn should he need support from another party to become prime minister.

As Brexit looms, against the will of the majority of voters in Scotland, the SNP is hoping the U.K.’s December 12 election will have a similar outcome to the 2015 ballot, when the party won a landslide victory. Turnout will be crucial for Sturgeon’s success, as a fall in participation was blamed for the party losing more than a third of its seats in the 2017 election.

Sturgeon has put a second independence referendum in 2020 at the core of the SNP manifesto, saying she would be willing to form a “progressive alliance” with Labour in return for a fresh ballot and extra cash for Scotland.


The SNP wants Scotland to become an independent country and stay in the European Union. In order to achieve that, the party will demand that the U.K. government transfers the necessary powers to allow the Scottish parliament to hold a second vote on independence, which Sturgeon’s party wants to hold in 2020.

If Scotland becomes independent, a SNP government would seek to be readmitted into the EU, the manifesto says.


For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

The SNP says it would support a second EU referendum with Remain on the ballot paper. The party would be in favor of cancelling Brexit if that is the only alternative to leaving the EU without a deal, it adds.

“Whatever Scotland’s constitutional status, it is important for the U.K. to remain as close to the EU as possible. SNP MPs will always vote to protect Scotland’s place in the single market and customs union,” the manifesto says.


The SNP wants migration policy to be devolved to Edinburgh.

It says it will continue to press the U.K. government to guarantee EU nationals’ right to remain in Britain, and will back calls for EU nationals to be allowed to vote in U.K. general elections.

If the U.K. government introduces a seasonal migrant workers’ scheme to replace EU freedom of movement, the SNP says it will insist such a scheme meets the needs of workers and companies in Scotland.

The SNP will oppose Tory plans to require certain migrants to earn at least £30,000 in order to get a visa to work in the U.K., something the Johnson government has asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to review. It will also campaign against the U.K. government’s Immigration Skills Charge, which forces employers to pay up to £5,000 per worker hired from outside the European Economic Area; and against indefinite immigration detention.

Access to citizenship has become increasingly costly, the SNP says, adding it would support a review of the citizenship application process with a view to bringing down its cost and reducing its complexity.

A streamlined visa scheme should be created to allow artists and performers to continue to work in the country, the party says.


The SNP says it will not support any U.K. government that does not put an end to austerity.

Its manifesto puts forward a funding plan for Scotland covering three core demands. First, reversing £1.5 billion cuts to the Scottish budget and increasing the budget in real terms; second, a plan to compensate for the last decade of austerity; and third, a demand for the U.K. government to increase per-head NHS funding south of the border to levels seen in Scotland, which it says is currently £136 per person higher. This increase in health spending in England would result in additional money for the Scottish NHS under the Barnett formula, which pegs public expenditure in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to levels in England.

It says the Scottish National Investment Bank, which will be operational in 2020, will provide £2 billion of long-term capital to companies and infrastructure projects. A top priority for the bank would be supporting the transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

The party will demand the devolution of employment and further tax powers, and support a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion.

SNP MPs will press for the statutory living wage and support a freeze on National Insurance contributions and Value Added Tax, as well as a reform of VAT to include exemptions on items such as children’s clothes.

To help businesses struggling to hire due to Brexit uncertainty, the SNP says it would support a rise in the National Insurance discount companies receive — the so-called Employment Allowance.

The party also wants to increase the transparency around tax paid by international companies “to ensure that they make a proportionate contribution to tax revenues.”

It will oppose any rise in the pension age and demand the end of the two-child benefit cap, the so-called rape clause, the bedroom tax and Universal Credit.


The SNP pledge to make mobility across Scotland more environmentally friendly by spending more than £500 million on buses, and helping people afford ultra-low emission vehicles by providing an additional £17 million in loans.

The party said it wants to reduce emissions from Scotland’s railways to zero by 2035 and will press the U.K. government to improve journey times between Scotland and London.

The Highlands and Islands could become the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040, the SNP said. To achieve that, the party wants to start trials of low- or zero-emission flights, including electric planes, in 2021.


The SNP will press the U.K. government to support the roll-out of fiber broadband and 5G technology, and ensure Scotland gets “its fair share” of the £5 billion of U.K. government funding to expand gigabit broadband to remote areas.

The SNP wants the internet to be reclassified as an essential service.

After Brexit, SNP MPs will assess the impact of voluntary free roaming arrangements for mobile phone use in the EU, the manifesto says.

Financial services

The manifesto says the biggest corporate failure in recent years was the “financial crash” and promises to work to make sure those responsible are held to account. It would do that by supporting the reinstatement of the reverse burden of proof, which required senior bank managers to show they had addressed any wrongdoing on their watch.

The party says it seems “unfair” that the taxpayer stepped in to bail out the banks while financial investors could reap a profit by selling shares in Royal Bank of Scotland “on the cheap.” To address that, the SNP would press for the public interest to be “fully protected” in any future disposal of RBS shares.


An SNP government would increase frontline health spending by more than £15 billion by 2021-2022, the manifesto says. It would call on the U.K government to match Scottish per capita NHS funding in England.

SNP MPs will push for a National Health Service Protection Act “to guarantee that trade deals will not undermine the founding principles of the NHS, nor open it to profit-driven exploitation,” and any future trade deals would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Assembly.

The SNP also wants the devolution of powers to tackle drug use and gambling.

New standards should be introduced to protect children from online harm, the party says. It floated plans to appoint an independent online regulator with the ability to impose heavy fines and block access to websites. The regulator would be funded through a levy on technology companies.

Agriculture and fishing

The SNP will fight for funding for agriculture and rural policy to be devolved to Scotland after Brexit, and to prevent post-Brexit tariffs on products such as seafood, fish and red meat, and for those sectors to be “fully compensated” if tariffs are introduced. They will also campaign for Scottish control of Scottish fisheries.

The party opposes the removal of import tariffs on products including cereals, horticulture, potatoes and eggs, saying doing so “could open up Scotland to sub-standard products.”

SNP MPs will promote reform of U.K. excise duty structures and tax for Scotch whisky. It also wants to ensure the continued use of Protected Geographical Indications, an EU scheme that designates a product originating in a specific place.

Climate and sustainability

The SNP pledged to make Scotland carbon-neutral by 2040.

The party will campaign for the U.K. to remain aligned with EU environmental regulations after Brexit, and for the British government to continue to invest in carbon-capture and storage technologies.

The manifesto includes plans for a Green Energy Deal to ensure renewable energy schemes get long-term funding certainty.

The SNP demands the ring-fencing of oil and gas receipts, creating a Net Zero Fund to drive investment in renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon capture utilization and storage.

Fracking would not be supported, it says.

It proposes a reform of the energy market to help households with their home energy bills. SNP MPs would press for the introduction of a database of people who have not switched suppliers as well as a national free switching service, showing the energy tariffs available and average bills.

SNP MPs would campaign for tax incentives to help companies in their transition to zero emissions, and a reduction in VAT on energy efficiency improvements in homes.

The manifesto includes a target to plant 30 million trees annually in Scotland by 2025.


The SNP wants to expand childcare into the school holidays for primary pupils from the poorest backgrounds.

It pledges to keep higher education free, and to continue to use its £750 million Scottish Attainment Fund to help students from poorer backgrounds go to university.


In exchange for SNP support for Labour, Sturgeon would demand the removal of the Trident nuclear deterrent from Scotland, and use the money currently spent on the program for the NHS and other public services.

The manifesto says SNP MPs would build a cross-party coalition to scrap Trident “as quickly and as safely as possible.”

The SNP will continue to press for U.K. investment in “conventional defense” and demand that the U.K. maintains its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GDP on international aid.

Law and order

The party says it has recruited an additional 1,000 police officers since it took office, and will continue to demand the U.K. government refunds “the £175 million in VAT owed to Scotland’s emergency services.”


Replacement of first-past-the-post voting system with the single transferable vote system; increase maternity leave to one year and increase paternity leave from 52 to 64 weeks.

Long read | Unsettled status? Vulnerable EU citizens may lose their UK residence overnight

Before the end of June 2021, EU nationals living in the UK need to apply for Settled Status (EUSS) in order to continue living and working here. Amelia Gentleman called the application process via the app the ‘’gateway between belonging and exclusion’’.  In this blog, Catherine Barnard, Fiona Costello and Sarah Fraser Butlin (University of Cambridge) claim that the importance of recognising that a significant proportion of EU nationals living in the UK are unaware of the need to apply for settled status cannot be overstated. They find that vulnerable EU citizens may lose their UK residence overnight. 

Currently, two million people have already made applications under the EUSS scheme (see Table 1). This is an extraordinary number for a scheme which has only been live since March 2019. It is important to note that, on the whole, for those who have the correct paperwork, documented history, smartphone, sufficient awareness, IT and language skills the process can be relatively pain-free.

Others, however, have struggled. These are the interim conclusions from our early research funded by the ESRC as part of the UK in a Changing Europe programme. We have worked with various specialist support agencies around the country and, with their help, have held multilingual focus groups talking to people about Brexit and Settled Status. People are also invited to contribute to the research via or online survey which is still live and available here.

Settled Status Applications

It is commonly thought that 3.64 million people will need to apply for EUSS; this figure includes Irish citizens but not EFTA and Swiss citizens. Crucially, it also does not include third country nationals who are family members of an EU national with settled status in the UK. Therefore, it is widely accepted that the true number of those eligible to apply for settled or pre-settled status is unknown.

Source: Home Office EU Settlement Scheme Statistics; Second edition table 1

The numbers

Recently it has been reported that some applications might have been double counted and include those who re-apply for settled status after gaining pre-settled status (for those who have been in the UK for less than five years). This number will grow in time as people progress to become entitled to settled status. The data on numbers of applications had previously faced scrutiny after increased reports of individuals having been given pre-settled, rather than settled, status. Many have called for more transparency with respect to the dataset.

Each of the organisations and professionals we spoke to in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, London, Birmingham and Bedford said that they had seen a spike in demand in August for EUSS applications. That spike has continued and in fact the numbers are growing as is reflected in the official numbers. Some attribute this spike to the increasing Brexit updates in the media and to Home Secretary Priti Patel’s announcement that free movement could end on 31st October 2019 (the second ‘Brexit’ day).

Despite this increase in demand, advice centres and support services suggested that it was but the tip of the iceberg, and, in fact, across the board, all were worried that a significant portion of the community that they work with are unaware that they need to apply for settled status or even what settled status is.


Once completed, turnaround for a decision on settled status varied from 1 day, 2-4 days to almost 3 months. Some applicants suggested they found the process easier because they already had permanent residence status. Conversely, some believed they did not need to apply because they had permanent resident status. According to the Home Office, 75% of applicants are completing the identity check ‘’app journey in under eight minutes’’. One advisor in Birmingham said ‘’we’ve had very few bad experiences so far. Usually we can get people through [eventually] to the right decision. I say easy in comparison to other Home Office applications which are so difficult in comparison- it’s relative’’. Their experience, however, was that given the time involved in uploading documents this meant they could see about 30 per cent fewer people; ‘’People actually need quite a bit of support. We get them there in the end, but it is time consuming. Certainly, takes more time than advertised’’ (Community Advisor, Birmingham).

Services in Norfolk reported one further barrier to EUSS applications specific to those with Romanian nationality identification. Romanian ID cards (which don’t have a ‘chip’) need to be physically sent to be checked as their ID card is not recognised by the EUSS system. To open a bank account, individuals also need  approved ID – equally some banks refuse to accept the Romanian ID card. Services report that this has been a deterrent for some people to apply – as their ID card might be their only form of ID if they don’t have a passport or driving licence. Others have travelled back to Romania in order to apply for a passport to then use that to apply for EUSS. There is an implicit cost and delay involved in applying for a passport which previously was not necessary to be legally resident here in the UK.

Raising Awareness

One organisation in Wisbech, Norfolk reported that clients think that Brexit has already happened or that they have permanent resident status already, so they didn’t need to make any further applications. Brexit was received with a laugh from one woman in our focus group asking ‘’Oh, is that still happening?’’ (Lithuanian National, Wisbech). Some others we spoke to reported that they were waiting for Brexit to happen as there was ‘’no point’’ in doing anything before then.

There are others who are just completely unaware of this new scheme. Speaking to agricultural workers in Cornwall messages and awareness about settled status were mixed and navigating the practicalities of applying and receiving support while working on a farm in rural Cornwall (living 6 to a caravan)- having the correct paperwork, printing bank statements, the lack of decent Wi-Fi connection, time, IT and language skills – was a real concern.

‘’We are talking about isolated communities- people are very isolated at times. They are here to work, and they work hard but they are isolated out in fields and in caravans in rural areas’’. (Community Advisor, Cornwall).

Caravans in Cornwall (picture by author)

Some of the specialist services we consulted are now proactively asking everyone who attends any session they offer about their EUSS status and then making appointments for those who do not have it. In Wisbech, staff hold a drop-in session in a Portuguese restaurant to ‘catch’ people who might not necessarily naturally come through the doors of their service. They have also undertaken interviews for Lithuanian television outlets – pointing out that few they work with get their news from BBC, choosing instead to watch news in their own native language, especially to be informed around complex issues such as this one. This raises questions about what methods, communication routes and, crucially, languages are being used by official channels to reach out to EU nationals. Home Office materials and information on settled status currently is available only in English and Welsh.

The importance of recognising that a significant proportion of EU nationals living in the UK are unaware of the need to apply for settled status cannot be overstated, not least because the true numbers needing to apply are not known and will remain unknown until likely people come forward after the fact, potentially when they have lost their legal residency status in the UK overnight.  On 10th October 2019, Minister of State for the Home Office Brandon Lewis confirmed that those who do not have settled status after the deadline could be subject to deportation.

The realities of the situation is that more than 80 per cent of the clients of advice agencies such as ACCESS in Kings Lynn and GYROS in Great Yarmouth are in employment. A majority work in factories, for agencies and/or with zero hours contracts, with longer and anti-social shift patterns making it difficult to attend appointments for support. There is the added complication that 51 per cent report limited English language skills to navigate this process.

‘’The reality is people are working and they don’t know about it or what they need to do’’. (Community Advisor Cornwall)

Advice Sharks

At a front-line level, the support services have received reports and evidence of ‘’advice sharks’’ working to exploit people. Practices included charging EU nationals for helping them with applications and ‘’advice sharks’’ putting in their own contact details so the applicant needs to pay again to access/ update their application at any point in the future.

It is clear then how vulnerable to exploitation someone who is unable to access evidence requirements, is without requisite language skills and relevant IT skills is to someone looking to make money from this situation. What will happen to these people in the future who cannot access their status? At the moment services state, this is unclear. It is clear that issues will arise in the future in terms of people remembering to keep their information up to date. One Bulgarian national we spoke to in Cornwall who had just completed his application and received pre-settled status was simply unaware he needed to be continue to log into his account and update any changes – he had in fact already changed his phone number and was living in temporary caravan accommodation on a farm-so a change of address was also imminent. Some professional advisors we spoke to said they were struggling with people who simply don’t have an email address and are not IT literate. Services are setting up email addresses for people and maintaining a record of log-in details in-house as a backup for individuals. What happens if the service supporting you to make your application closes and you then can’t locate the log-in details for your application?

Concerns expressed by EU nationals about completing the application

Support services and agencies report that vulnerable people are anxious and worried about their status. They report that they are making appointments to see even those who have already practically completed the application- they just need to press submit. These are people with the necessary evidence, the android app, English competency and IT skills. However, they just want reassurance from a professional to press the button, especially as there is no physical evidence, and all is online.

‘’People are so scared they will do something wrong’’. (OISC Advisor, Great Yarmouth).

Services also report that a significant number of those they are working with are refusing to complete a settled status application as they had serious concerns about what happens to their data and that the ‘’Home Office would then control them’’ (Polish national, Bedford). Another reported that settled status ‘’felt like a head count exercise’’ (Latvian national, Great Yarmouth).

This issue has recently been before the courts when campaigners brought a high court challenge over new rules that prevent EU citizens living in Britain from finding out what data the Home Office holds on them. The group had challenged an exemption clause in the Data Protection Act that came into force last year, which denies EU Nationals the right to have access to their personal records in immigration cases. But in a ruling on 3 October 2019 the High Court concluded the exemption was not unlawful; an appeal is planned

Providing proof of settled status

In a number of the focus groups, EU nationals reported that they were already being asked to show their employer proof of their settled status. This can cause huge anxiety. One person in Kings Lynn, Norfolk was asked by their manager to come back the following week with proof of status; they could not do this because they had been put on a waiting list for an appointment with a support service to apply for EUSS. This caused the individual huge anxiety. As of October 2019, the backlog of applications awaiting decisions sat at 335,700.

The care sector was particularly identified as demanding EUSS paperwork. Individuals participating in focus groups in three geographically separate focus groups had all been asked to provide proof of their settled status. When asked about awareness that legally they did not need to prove they have settled status until June 2020, a worker replied ”Yes I know that, but in reality what choice do I have when I am asked- if I want to continue working there’’ (Lithuanian national, Kings Lynn)People were aware of their rights but did not feel empowered to enforce them. One employer we spoke to in Cornwall was aware that he would not need to ask for proof of settled status until 30 June 2021. He is working with local support to ensure that all staff can apply for settled status. It has serious financial implications for him – he said that already this year was their most difficult one to date in terms of recruitment and getting all their crop picked- he fears next year will be worse.


These interim findings from our early research work with migrant workers and advice agencies about the EUSS, highlight current community concerns and the considerable future challenges. While numbers of EU migrants might be small in a national context (although we do not, in fact, know the true numbers), they are significant within towns, such as Yarmouth, and rural areas. They are significant to local employers and they will be significant to local authorities if more vulnerable community members lose their UK residence status overnight.

This article gives the views of the authors, not the position of LSE Brexit or the London School of Economics. It draws on an article that appeared on UK in a Changing Europe.

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