Britain may be indirectly forced by the EU to open its borders to an extra 20-million workers from Asia and Africa.
The European Union is planning to introduce a new ‘blue card’ scheme modelled on the American ‘green card’ Work Permit.
EU Justice Commissioner, Franco Frattini, announced: ‘The Blue EU Labour Card’ would allow qualified migrants from Asian and African countries the right to live, work and travel in the 27 member states.
“The plan will be unveiled next month,” he said.
The card would entitle skilled migrants to work in a member state for two years and then move to a second EU member country after two or three years.
If EU plans are implemented workers could apply to stay permanently after five consecutive years in any EU state and would be free to travel where they wished.
Mr Frattini told a conference in Lisbon, Portugal, this week: “We have to look at immigration as an enrichment and as an inescapable phenomenon of today’s world, not as a threat.”
And he called on member states to stop viewing immigration as a threat and erecting barriers to arrivals. The reforms could more than double the EU’s foreign-born population by 2030.
“The challenge is to attract the workers needed to fill specific gaps,” Mr Frattini continued, highlighting that only 5% of immigrants coming to the EU are skilled workers, compared to 55% arriving in the US.
He said Europe needed labour, both skilled and unskilled, because of a fall in the population of working age. “By 2050, a third of residents in the 27 countries would be aged over 65.”
Britain is moving to a points-based work permit system from next year aimed at attracting more skilled workers and removing settlement rights from unskilled migrants.
Although not signed up to common EU borders, it will still be affected if the plans went ahead.
Britain has an ‘opt-in’ to certain policies from Brussels it supports and is not bound by EU policy on immigration and asylum. But a blue card could circumvent any opt-out by Britain.
The Tories opposed the move last night. Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said: “The fact that under these proposals anyone who has lived for five years anywhere in the EU would be allowed to stay permanently makes a mockery of any Government claim they have the option of opting in to this.
“Since this would be likely to be in addition to already large-scale immigration, the stress placed on housing, public services and community relations in the UK would be enormous.
“We would introduce an explicit annual limit on the numbers of non-EU migrants who can come to the UK which would be set by Parliament.
A spokesman for the Home Office, which is in the middle of a radical overhaul of its immigration system, said last night: “The European Commission has not yet issued any proposals for a blue card scheme but we would consider any such proposals carefully.
“The UK has the right to opt in to EU measures on immigration and we would only decide to do this if the proposals were consistent with our national approach to managed migration.
“The Government is committed to controlling migration and boosting Britain‘s economy by bringing in the right skills from around the world.
“We have already established a Highly Skilled Migrants programme that prioritises entry into the UK for those with the right skills.
“We are also managing numbers in the national interest by moving into a tough Australian-style points based migration system for those seeking to work in the UK who come from outside the European Economic Area.”
If you need advice on Work Permits and other schemes, please email Charles Kelly
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