The UK’s decision to leave the EU will have profound consequences for UK migration policies, as well as for the dynamics of immigration and integration in Scotland and the UK. Brexit will imply withdrawal from EU policies and cooperation on immigration and it is expected to signify an end to the rights to free movement of workers.
The RSE would therefore encourage the UK and Scottish Governments to consider the options that exist in developing a post-Brexit immigration policy, taking into account not just immediate labour market needs, but also longer-term economic and demographic impacts; including the distinct needs of the devolved administrations.
An early priority of the negotiations should be agreement on the rights of EU nationals, in terms of their right to remain in the UK, their access to public services and their participation in democratic processes. This is essential not only for ethical reasons, but also to avoid an outflow of EU nationals who are making a vital contribution to the Scottish economy and society. The RSE notes that the Prime Minister made an initial offer with regard to this issue, but that the response from the EU was that it fell short of their desired outcome in terms of the rights of EU citizens. Ultimately, an agreement will need to be reached between the EU and the UK on this issue and the parallel rights of UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU.
Additionally, given that a significant proportion of EU immigration is clustered in lower-skilled jobs, it is vital to explore how labour shortages in such areas would be addressed post-Brexit. Short-term responses in the form of seasonal worker and temporary labour programmes should build in appropriate rights and protection for immigrant workers.
Professor Christina Boswell FRSE