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United Kingdom: Far-Reaching Reforms Announced Following General Election

Far-reaching reforms have been announced following the general election.

When the results of the recent general election were tallied, even the victors were surprised when the Conservative Party won sufficient seats in the House of Commons to shed its coalition partner and form a new majority government. Following this success, Prime Minister David Cameron moved swiftly to announce the Tories' new policies and begin implementing a raft of far-reaching reforms.

With regard to immigration, the government intends to:

  • introduce a criminal offense for illegal working (the government plans to seize wages as the proceeds of a crime);
  • create a government enforcement agency to address the exploitation and coercion of migrant workers;
  • make it illegal for employment agencies to recruit solely from abroad without first advertising in English in Britain;
  • expand tenant immigration status checks to the national level, while simultaneously making the eviction of undocumented migrant tenants easier for landlords;
  • ensure that banks take action against accounts of undocumented migrants;
  • broaden the scope of "deport first, appeal later" to include nearly all immigration cases;
  • implement mandatory electronic "tagging" of migrant offenders who are released on bail; and
  • ask the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to consult on plans to further reduce migrant labor from outside the European Union, including:
    • financing United Kingdom (UK) apprenticeships via levies on businesses hiring individuals under Tier 2;
    • increasing minimum salary thresholds for migrant workers;
    • restricting how long occupational sectors may claim that they have a skills shortage;
    • limiting work visas to specialist experts and areas with skills shortages; and
    • restricting Tier 2 dependents' right to work.

In anticipation of the promised "in-out" referendum by 2017 on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU, Prime Minister Cameron also took the first steps toward renegotiating the terms of the UK's relationship with the EU. Alongside other, broader changes he is proposing, and in an effort to curb migration from the European continent, Cameron hopes to restrict EU migrants' access to social welfare benefits in the UK. While some of these terms may be possible, EU leaders have made it clear that free movement is not up for negotiation.

At present, however, an overwhelming majority of Britons do not believe that Mr. Cameron's negotiations will be effective. Notwithstanding this pessimism, polls suggest that 44% of British citizens favor remaining in the EU (with 36% hoping to leave, and 17% still undecided). That said, as the pollsters and pundits were nearly universally incorrect in their general election forecasts, no result should at this point be seen as a foregone conclusion.

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