Home Secretary Sajid Javid will outline plans to meet “the clear instruction to get control over our borders” when he reveals a new post-Brexit immigration system.
Details of the government’s proposals will finally be published today – just 100 days before the UK leaves the EU – following a series of delays in ministers bringing forward the plans amid reports of cabinet rows.
Mr Javid is promising a new single, skills-based system to mark the end of EU free movement rules, to be introduced after the end of the planned Brexit transition period from 2021.
A government white paper will include details of a new visa route for skilled workers and no cap for high-skilled professions such as doctors and engineers.
The Home Office said the UK will have “full control” over who comes to the country, with “everyone needing permission before they arrive” and net migration being reduced to “sustainable levels”.
The proposals have been prepared following the recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee earlier this year, which suggested EU citizens be given no preference over those from countries outside the bloc.
Mr Javid said: “We are delivering on the clear instruction to get control over our borders and will bring in a new system that works in the interest of the British people.
“It will be a single, skills-based immigration system built around the talent and expertise people can bring, rather than where they come from – maximising the benefits of immigration and demonstrating the UK is open for business.”
Quizzed on the BBC’s Today programme to repeat a 2017 Conservative manifesto pledge to get net migration under 100,000, Mr Javid refused to multiple times.
On Thursday, the government will give a first reading to the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Commons.
This will include measures to end free movement and also create the legal framework for a future, single benefits system that will apply to both EU and non-EU nationals.
The government has already promised to protect the rights of EU nationals currently in the UK, whether the UK leaves the bloc with an exit deal or not.
It has been reported the immigration white paper will include no reference to the Conservative manifesto pledge to reduce net migration – from both EU and non-EU countries – to the “tens of thousands”.
Prime Minister Theresa May has stuck rigidly to the promise while in 10 Downing Street, but Mr Javid is among key ministers to have backed away from explicitly endorsing the target.
A Whitehall source told The Independent website: “It’s not in there, and it won’t be unless someone slips it in at the last minute.”
Labour attacked the government over reports elsewhere the immigration proposals will include a £30,000 minimum salary for migrants to enter the UK as “highly skilled” workers.
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes told Sky News she was “absolutely looking” at the figure but insisted it was the “start of the conversation” and there could be an industry shortages list of exemptions.
She did not repeat the Conservatives pledge to get net migration under 100,000, but did say “immigration can be a numbers game but we need to have a much more nuanced conversation”.
The Financial Times said the issue was at the heart of a dispute between Mrs May – who supposedly wanted strict new limits on EU migrants – and two of her cabinet ministers; Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark.
According to the newspaper, both Mr Hammond and Mr Clark have been appeased by Downing Street agreeing to consult on the proposed threshold amid the pair’s fears it could harm the economy.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “The government has disgracefully labelled workers on less than £30,000 as low-skilled.
“Our economy and public services are kept ticking by this majority of workers. The government is not, as it wrongly claims, using a skills-based criteria to meet the needs of our economy and our society.
“It is using an income-based system which allows derivatives traders free movement but which excludes nurses, social care workers and other professions in which we have severe skills or labour shortages.
“The Tories are, once again, using crude anti-migrant rhetoric to try to cover up for their abject failure of managing the economy and the Brexit negotiations.”
Last month, official figures revealed net migration from the EU has fallen to its lowest level in six years, but migration from outside the EU is at its highest level since 2004.
The Office for National Statistics said net migration of non-EU nationals in the year to June was 248,000 – the highest total in 14 years.
Meanwhile, net migration of EU nationals was 74,000 – the lowest since 2012.
That meant the UK’s population rose by 273,000 in the year due to immigration, with 49,000 British nations emigrating.