The United Kingdom on Monday severed its last constitutional ties to EU immigration rules, with the passing of a bill that ends the bloc’s cornerstone principle of free movement.
Ending the freedom of movement was a key demand of many of those who supported Brexit. The new law means that EU citizens will be subject to the same immigration rules as people from the rest of the world in the new year—except those already living in the UK who have obtained or are applying for settled status.
On Monday, the bill passed the final hurdle of potential amendments in the House of Lords, prompting Patel’s announcement.
People from the Republic of Ireland will be unaffected by the change and will be allowed to continue to move to and work in the UK.
European Economic Area citizens and family members already living in the UK can apply for settled status under a scheme running since March 2019. There is a grace period of six months for applications after the new rules come in to force at the end of the Brexit transition period on Jan. 1, 2021.
After that date, all immigrants will be subject to a points-based system, which the government says will be spelled out in secondary legislation.
The government says that the rule-based system will be a modified version of the system currently used for non-EU immigrants.
The EU principle of free movement was paradoxically enshrined into UK law during the Brexit process. As the UK prepared to sever constitutional ties, not knowing which EU laws and regulations would be wanted or not in the future, Parliament in 2018 simply copied and pasted all EU laws into UK law. The logic was that lawmakers could ditch or amend legislation piecemeal in the future.
The Immigration Bill changes the UK law that retained EU rules.