In the run up to the UK immigration issues in February, we will be conducting a series of visa Bulletin February 2021 predictions. We will be looking at how the issue of post-2021 EU enlargement will impact the UK and how this will impact on Britain's wider interests. In addition we will also look at whether or not the government's Modernization Strategy could achieve its stated targets. Finally we will examine how the government's planned Anti-extremism Bill could impose limitations on religious freedoms and contribute to an increasingly problematic global internet censorship climate. As always with these predictions, we will be exploring both positive and negative aspects of the subject.
Firstly we will look at how the UK Government's strategy for the post-2021 EU enlargement period can be successfully implemented. The key aspects of this strategy include creating a streamlined visa application process, enabling greater control of public spending and increasing the level of migration into the UK from abroad. The key issues to address are therefore how to make the process simpler and more efficient while also tackling the concerns over freedom of movement and European citizenship. It is believed that one of the most effective ways of implementing these changes is through a forward strategy. This would include measures to protect the rights of EU citizens already in the country, as well as those wishing to migrate to the UK post-2021.
One potential way in which the government might introduce controls over the amount of migration into the country is through a future visa system. These systems would replace the existing work permit system, currently the biggest barrier to migration into the UK. According to a recent article in the Spectator, the UK has a woefully inadequate system in place to control the numbers of people coming to live and work in the country. The potential introduction of a visa system could be used to introduce controls over the numbers of working age people immigrating to the country every year. However, there are concerns that such controls could be ineffective as they do not guarantee the level of integration that is needed for the UK to meet its current obligations and become a reliable destination for migrants.
There is also concern that any attempts to introduce a visa scheme through a future bill might be challenged in court. The argument put forward against any attempts to introduce a visa bill into the law books is that such a bill might amount to legislative interference with the right of free movement within the EU. It is argued that the bill might prevent the free movement of persons from EU countries to Britain who wish to bring their family members with them to the country. It may also prevent British citizens who have lived in another country for five years or more from returning to the country of their birth to take up residence in Britain. Any attempt to introduce a visa bill would be met with heavy opposition.
It is also argued that any attempts to introduce a visa ban or restriction may only be temporary and will be replaced by a later tightening of the visa regime. In this scenario, it is not unlikely that the transitional period used to allow migration to the country during the introduction of the EU enlargement arrangements may only be for two years. As such . . . . . . any tightening of the migration policy following the passage of this guidance could be a viable argument for opponents of an independent visa bill.
Furthermore, there is also some concern that the introduction of the visa system itself might be illegal. The argument put forward against this is that the UK government is not bound to consult the European Commission before introducing any visa policy and that it might set a bad precedent for future attempts to introduce restrictive visa policies. It might also be argued that the UK authorities are not bound to consult the EU Commission before taking a decision on any visa application, even if the visa is to be reintroduced into the visa system. Any such position might well change following the introduction of the UK Immigration Visa Bulletin that sets out the precise circumstances under which an individual visa will be suspended or cancelled.