UK: UK Government Asks Migration Advisory Committee To Review Australian Immigration System And Confirms No-Deal Immigration Plans

Last Updated: 9 September 2019
Article by Fragomen  

At a Glance

  • The Home Secretary has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to conduct a review of Australia's and similar immigration systems to determine best practices for a post-Brexit UK immigration system that would strengthen the labor market. The review, which is due back by January 2020, is part of a larger ongoing salary threshold evaluation which the MAC is already reviewing.
  • The government has also confirmed that if the United Kingdom departs from the European Union without a deal on October 31, 2019, it will honor the previous government's plans to introduce a European Temporary Leave to Remain Scheme for European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals and their close family members.
  • In addition, the government has announced that new border controls will be introduced in the event of a no-deal Brexit which will make it more difficult for serious criminals to enter the United Kingdom.

The situation

The Home Secretary has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to conduct a review of Australia's and other similar immigration systems to determine best practices for a post-Brexit UK immigration system as part of its ongoing review into salary thresholds. The MAC is an independent, non-departmental public body sponsored by the Home Office that advises the government on migration issues.

In a busy week of political developments, the government also announced that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it will honor the plan formed under Theresa May's government to introduce a European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme (Euro TLR) and will introduce tighter security checks designed to make it more difficult for serious criminals to enter the United Kingdom.

A closer look

Details of the post-Brexit planning include the following:

MAC review of Australian immigration system
  • Review of global immigration systems. The MAC will evaluate best practices from Australia's and other points-based immigration systems to strengthen the UK labor market by attracting the most qualified individuals, while still controlling migration and ending free movement.
  • Points-based system. The focus of the review will be to understand how flexibility can be added to a new immigration system where points will be awarded to foreign nationals based on attributes such as educational qualifications and language proficiency. These attributes would be considered in addition to the future salary threshold which the MAC is already reviewing to aid the government when determining who is to be eligible under a new immigration system.
  • New immigration system. The MAC will provide a report with their recommendations on a new immigration system to the Home Secretary in January 2020; a new immigration system is expected to be introduced in January 2021.
  • Skilled labor market. The report's recommendations for a new immigration system will help create a labor market that can meet the needs of the post-Brexit UK economy.
  • Practical implementation. However, the practical impact will depend on whether the government accepts the MAC's recommendations in the future immigration system. Fragomen will continue to report on developments.
Government confirms immigration plans for a no-deal Brexit
  • European Temporary Leave to Remain. The government confirmed that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it will honor the previous Home Secretary's plan to introduce a European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme for European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals who enter the United Kingdom after exit day. This will allow EEA and Swiss nationals to enter the United Kingdom after Brexit. Once in the United Kingdom, they will need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain if they wish to remain beyond December 31, 2020.
  • Time period. European Temporary Leave to Remain will be granted for three years, after which time applicants will either need to leave the United Kingdom or apply for status under a new UK immigration system.
  • Digital status. Applicants will receive a digital status, similar to that received under the EU Settlement Scheme; the application is expected to be straightforward and available online after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.
  • Stricter border controls. In addition, the government will introduce tougher border controls to make it harder for serious criminals to enter the United Kingdom in the event of a no-deal exit from the European Union.
  • Greater certainty. The announcement brings clarity for businesses and EEA/Swiss nationals, particularly after there were previous reports that free movement would end immediately overnight in the event of a no-deal exit from the European Union.
  • Reduced risk of border chaos. The announcement also grants a lengthier adjustment period for foreign nationals who were previously eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme as they have until at least December 31, 2020 to submit their applications for a new status. This will reduce the risk of border chaos in the event of a no-deal Brexit. However, Fragomen recommends that eligible nationals submit their applications as early as possible.
  • Process uncertain. Applications to a new Euro TLR scheme will be free of charge and will be made after arrival in the United Kingdom. Fragomen awaits full details of the application process.
  • Right to work. Employers will not be required to distinguish between EEA and Swiss citizens who arrived before and after Brexit until the future immigration system is introduced in 2021.
  • Enforced border controls. Those who have serious criminal convictions may find it more difficult to enter the United Kingdom after the United Kingdom has departed from the European Union if there is a no-deal Brexit. Further details on the exact nature of the border checks have not yet been released. Fragomen will continue to report on developments.


The announcements come amidst a great deal of uncertainty as press coverage indicated that the Home Secretary contemplated ending free movement overnight and Members of Parliament passed a bill to attempt to block a no-deal exit this week. The bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords and is likely to obtain Royal Assent next week.

Nevertheless, the default position is that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on October 31, 2019 without a deal unless a further extension or a deal is agreed before then.

Looking ahead

  • Emergency bill to block a no-deal outcome. If the bill to block a no-deal exit from the European Union obtains Royal Assent next week, it will become law and will give the Prime Minister until October 19, 2019 to either pass a deal in Parliament or to approve a no-deal Brexit. Otherwise, the Prime Minister is instructed to request an extension for the United Kingdom's departure date to January 31, 2020 from the European Union.
  • Upcoming general election. The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated he does not intend to request a further extension and has attempted to pass a bill calling for a general election on October 15, 2019. This was defeated, but opposition parties have indicated they would support an election either once the bill to block the no-deal Brexit passes into law next week or has been implemented in practice (i.e. an extension or deal has been secured, which is likely to be later in October). The chance of an election therefore remains high, although the date and circumstance surrounding it is in flux.
  • Preparation for a no-deal Brexit. Although Parliament is attempting to block a no-deal exit, this is not guaranteed given the likely upcoming general election and since it is unclear if the European Union will agree to a further extension. Fragomen's advice therefore remains to ensure that businesses have contingency plans in place for a no-deal Brexit on October 31, 2019.

Visit Fragomen's dedicated Brexit site which contains news, FAQs, and analysis/commentary in the form of blogs, videos, webcasts and events.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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