Following a vote in the House of Commons last night (18 May), the general principles of the law were approved by 351 votes to 252.
The bill will now go on to receive further scrutiny.
It marks the latest phase in the Government’s plan to bring in an ‘Australian-style’ points-based immigration system that would favour workers who are judged to be ‘high-skilled’, and aim to end ‘low-skilled’ migration from the EU once the UK leaves the bloc at the end of the year.
According to proposals released in February, those wishing to come and work in the UK from the EU under the new system would have to secure a job with a minimum salary threshold of £25,600.
Those earning less than £25,600, but more than £20,480, would still be able to apply for a visa if it was to work in a “specific shortage occupation” role; while anyone earning less than £20,480 would not be able to take a job in the country.
The proposals would effectively make it impossible for hospitality businesses to secure EU migrants for entry-level waiting and cooking roles, as well as kitchen porters and baristas.
Prior to last night’s vote, Home Secretary Priti Patel posted on Twitter saying: “We’re ending free movement to open Britain up to the world.
“It will ensure people can come to our country based on what they have to offer, not where they come from.”
The Tweet provoked further condemnation of the policy, which has previously been described as “disastrous” for the hospitality sector.
Former Galvin at Windows general manager Fred Sirieix responded to Patel’s post saying: “Nothing to be proud of here. Politics of division, delusion and deception. If only you were working on what makes a positive difference. Shame on you.”
There are suggestions that opposition to the bill could increase in light of the support shown to key workers during the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, many of which would be considered ‘low-skilled’ under a new points-based system.
A YouGov opinion poll commissioned by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) suggests 54% of people now support looser immigration controls for workers regarded as essential during the pandemic.
The Government list of critical workers during the crisis includes care staff; food processing staff; supermarket workers; and delivery drivers.
Full details of the new immigration rules are expected to be published later this year, and are due to come into effect from 1 January 2021.