— This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on September 6, Wednesday.
According to a document leaked to the Guardian, Britain will end its free movement of labor immediately after Brexit and introduce restrictions to deter all EU citizens, apart from highly-skilled workers, to work in Britain.
The document stipulated that low-skilled EU migrants will only be given up to two years of residency while highly-skilled workers can receive up to three to five years of work permit.
In addition, the document also described a phased introduction to a new immigration system that ends the right for most European immigrants to settle in Britain. The document also mentioned tough new restrictions on immigrants' rights to bring in their family members. Potentially, the implementation of this restriction could lead to thousands of families being split up.
Such an immigration policy has not yet been approved by the ministers but will initiate negotiations with the EU. Indeed, this leak has become a huge controversy in Britain where businesses express concerns that this will lead to a serious brain drain.
Among them is the British Association of Corporate Directors, which said that the current unemployment rate in Britain is at its lowest ever, at about 4.4%. But without these EU citizens, the British labor force will face a serious shortage.
In fact, various industries in the UK have become more dependent on labor supplied from the EU. Taking a look at the chart that shows the number of EU and non-EU immigrants in Britain, the number of EU immigrants had increased significantly since 2012. By the end of the British referendum in 2016, the number of EU immigrants matched the number of immigrants from all over the world. The moment, Britain has about 3 million EU immigrants.
The largest source of EU immigrants comes from Poland. At the moment, a total of 916,000 Polish citizens live in the United Kingdom. This is more than the total number of British nationals living in the EU. Following behind Poland, in order, are Ireland, Romania, Portugal and Italy.
Another concern is how a strict immigration policy may invite retaliatory action by the 27-EU-country bloc such as to make it even more challenging for British citizens to work or migrate to the EU.
Thus, the possibility of a tough stance in Brexit talks has increased significantly. Furthermore, EU and British citizens were found to be speeding up their immigration application before the conclusion of the talks, for fear that it will be more difficult when Britain officially exits from Europe.
Statistics showed that nearly 30,000 EU nationals applied to become British citizens, a year after referendum in June – almost double the number of the previous year. British retirees were also rushing to settle in European countries like Spain, Portugal, and France. According to data released by a company that assists retirees in migration, its monthly inquiries to its websites had doubled in a year, while actual business went up by 25%.
Just how many of the policies listed on this document will be realized during negotiations? And how will the EU retaliate? We will continue to keep watch.
CNBC's Qian Chen reporting from Singapore.