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London Mayor warns Priti Patel against Brexit changes

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has written to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel seeking clarification on the government's plans for the movement of people within the European Union (EU) in the event of a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

EU citizens currently enjoy what is referred to as freedom of movement anywhere within the 28-member economic bloc but if Britain were to leave without an agreement in place, their visa-free movement is expected to be curtailed.

Some media reports have indicated that the UK Home Office plans to impose instant border restrictions in the event of a no-deal Brexit, without any provisions for a transition period.

I was very concerned to read reports that you are planning to end the free movement of labour on day one of a no-deal Brexit. I urge you strongly to reconsider these plans, Khan wrote in his letter sent to Patel on Monday.

The Mayor referenced his fellow Pakistani-origin minister, UK Chancellor Sajid Javid, who in his previous role as Home Secretary had indicated the need for a transition period before imposing post-Brexit travel restrictions on EU citizens travelling to and from the UK.

Ending free movement without transitional arrangements would undoubtedly have a severe economic impact as businesses would have very little time or capacity to prepare for such a fundamental change to our labour market. The same would be true for public sector organisations, including our NHS [National Health Service], says Khan.

Warning of deeper consequences of a reckless change to the UK's immigration system, he added that the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK one million of whom are Londoners would be piled on with greater unease and anxiety despite making an enormous contribution to the British economy and society.

By putting the rights and freedoms of EU citizens in the UK at risk in such a careless and brutal fashion, these plans would be a fundamental affront to British values of justice, tolerance and respect.

"They would also raise pressing questions over the status of UK citizens currently living, or indeed travelling, in other EU countries, he said, reiterating his call for a second referendum to allow the British public another say over the country's EU membership.

Patel, an outspoken Brexiteer and the senior-most Indian-origin member of the Boris Johnson led government, has not made an official statement on the matter but media reports have indicated that plans are being put in place for an instant imposition of border restrictions on EU nationals as soon as Britain leaves the EU.

The minister is generally seen as more hardline on the issue of freedom of movement than her predecessors.

The home secretary has been clear in her intention to take back control of our borders and end free movement after 31 October, a UK Home Office spokesperson said.

Ending free movement means we are no longer required to give unlimited and uncontrolled access to those from EU countries when they are coming here seeking to work, the spokesperson said, adding that the government is committed to introducing a new, fairer immigration system that prioritises skills and what people can contribute to the UK, rather than where they come from.

The UK has introduced an EU Settlement scheme for nationals of EU member-countries based in the UK to register for settled status in the country, with that deadline expected to remain December 2020 the Brexit transition period planned under a rejected withdrawal agreement with the EU.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, August 20 2019. 16:10 IST