Immigration & Integration After Brexit

David Goodhart

Head of Demography, Immigration & Integration

Policy Exchange proposes a UK population register and two-tier citizenship to help manage post Brexit migration

New report: Radical action needs to be taken to reassure sceptical public who perceive UK being used as an economic transit camp

A new British population register which allocates a unique person number to every citizen would radically improve the government’s knowledge of who is entering and leaving the country, according to a new report by leading think tank Policy Exchange.

The paper, which examines immigration and integration policy after Brexit, argues that one of the primary reasons why people voted to leave the European Union was due their unease over the government’s ignorance of how many people are in the country and where they are living. Currently the various different government databases including DWP, HMRC and the Home Office do not share information and most citizens have several unique identifiers such as an NHS number, National Insurance number and passport number which are stored in different places. A unique person number stored in a central register would give the government a much more informed picture of migration flows.

David Goodhart, the author of the report, argues that the new population register should also distinguish between full and temporary citizens. Temporary citizens on visas such as students and short-term migrant workers – who currently account for two-thirds of the annual inflow into Britain – would not have full access to social and political rights, and would not have an automatic right to bring in dependents and would leave after a specific period of time.

The population register would be based on people’s NHS number, but would not require an ID card. While the new system will not in itself help control immigration flows, it would act as a much more reliable oversight of movement across borders. This would help the government combat illegal immigration and allocate much needed resources to areas of the country which may experience major demographic surges.

The report makes a number of other recommendations including:

  • EU citizens who have been living in Britain for over 5 years should be offered special cut-price ‘Brexit Citizenship’
  • After Brexit, work permits should be introduced for EU as well as non-EU citizens, enabling the government to fine-tune the numbers working in different sectors and gradually reduce the number of unskilled EU citizens as a whole, helping to bring net immigration below 200,000
  • A new high profile commission to consider ways in which it can be made more attractive to hire and train British citizens
  • A beefed up Migration Impacts Fund, which would enable local authorities to bid for grants to assist with the impact that increased migration could have on school places, GP surgeries and A&E departments

The new initiatives would be paid for by an immediate relaxation of spending targets for the Home Office and in the longer term by hypothecating a slice of the saving the UK would make from the net payment to the EU and by making richer universities pay for the running of a new Student Migration Agency (SMA) to supervise student flows.

David Goodhart, author of the report, said:

“Roughly 2 million people arrive in the UK on visas every year and too many are overstaying. We have to urgently address the resentment that people feel about the fact that some migrants use Britain as a sort of economic transit camp.

“The government needs to get a grip on who is coming into Britain, where they are living and what public services they are accessing. A British population register which differentiates between full and temporary citizens will help the government concentrate rights, benefits and integration efforts on those who are making a full commitment to the country.”

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