Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday Dec. 19, 2018. With 100 days until Britain leaves the European Union, the government was publishing long-awaited plans Wednesday for a post-Brexit immigration system that will end free movement of EU citizens to the UK (HOUSE OF COMMONS VIA AP)
LONDON — The European Union marked 100 days until
Brexit on Wednesday by triggering an action plan to ensure planes can still fly
and money can still flow between Britain and the bloc in the increasingly likely
event that the UK leaves the EU without a divorce deal.
The British govt released immigration plans that it said will "take back control" of the country's borders while the EU plans intend to avert "major disruption"
The British government, struggling to break a political logjam over Brexit, released immigration plans that it said will "take back control" of the country's borders — but which opponents warn will batter the economy by shutting out everyone but highly paid professionals.
The EU measures, announced a day after Britain ramped up its own no-deal planning, are intended to alleviate "major disruption" to people and businesses in case squabbling UK politicians fail to ratify a withdrawal agreement between Britain and the bloc.
Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis called the contingency plan "an exercise in
limiting damage."Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but it's unclear
whether lawmakers will approve the divorce agreement Prime Minister Theresa
May's government has negotiated with the bloc. May postponed a vote in
Parliament last week because the deal faced heavy defeat. It has been
rescheduled for mid-January, but opposition remains strong across the political
Leaving without a deal risks plunging the British economy into recession and sparking chaos at the borders, as four decades of economic alignment and open markets evaporate.
The EU plan includes temporary one-to-two-year measures to allow some UK-EU financial services to continue and a 12-month provision to keep planes flying between Britain and the bloc.
European Commissioner for Euro and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovkis speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Dec 19, 2018. (VIRGINIA MAYO / AP)
But Dombrovskis stressed that the measures "cannot replicate the
benefits of the withdrawal agreement, and certainly it cannot replicate the
benefits of EU membership.
"Britain's no-deal preparations include putting 3,500
soldiers on standby, chartering boats to bring in goods and stockpiling
medicines. The government called them sensible precautions, but opposition
politicians accused May of trying to scare lawmakers into supporting her Brexit
In this House of Commons TV handout video, with Labour MPs in the background, Britain's opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a statement in the House of Commons on his return after being accused of mouthing "stupid woman" at Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister's Questions, in the House of Commons, London, Dec 19, 2018. (HOUSE OF COMMONS VIA AP)
"No-deal would be a disaster for our country and no responsible
government would ever allow it," Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
Most members of Parliament dislike both May's Brexit deal and the prospect of leaving the EU without an agreement, but they are deeply divided about what to do instead, and the country's political debate has grown increasingly bad-tempered as Brexit day approaches.
Corbyn was forced to deny calling May a "stupid woman" in the House of Commons on Wednesday, after he was caught appearing to mutter the insult during a fiery debate.
"I did not use the words 'stupid woman' about the prime minister or anyone else, and am completely opposed to the use of sexist or misogynist language in absolutely any form at all," Corbyn said.
Post-Brexit immigration system: British proposal
In a bid to regain some of its vanished
political momentum, the British government published long-awaited plans for a
post-Brexit immigration system that will end the automatic right of EU citizens
to live in the UK.
"We're going to bring an end to free movement," May said. "We will do that in a way that enables us to reduce net migration but enables us to ensure that the brightest and best can be attracted to the United Kingdom."She said that "in the future coming here will be based on your contribution, not on the country you come from."The government proposal places no limit on the number of well-paid, skilled immigrants who can settle in Britain, but puts curbs on "low-skilled" workers, who would only be able to get one-year working visas.
The British plan suggests setting a salary threshold that immigrants will have to meet in order to be given the right to settle in Britain. An independent body advising the government has suggested 30,000 pounds (US$38,000) a year
The government plan suggests setting a salary
threshold that immigrants will have to meet in order to be given the right to
settle in Britain.
An independent body advising the government has suggested 30,000 pounds (US$38,000) a year — above the median UK wage and more than the starting salary for nurses, paramedics, junior doctors and many other professions.
The government said the exact salary threshold would be decided after public consultation.
The rules will not apply to more than 3 million EU citizens currently living in Britain. The government has said they can stay, even if the UK leaves the bloc without an agreement on future relations. The EU, in its no-deal plans, urged member states to extend the same right to more than 1 million resident British nationals.
Immigration was a major factor behind Britain's 2016 vote to leave the EU, and May has made ending free movement and cutting net immigration by more than half to below 100,000 people a year her key Brexit goals.
But that has put her at odds with many business leaders. Big chunks of Britain's economy, from agriculture to health care, have come to depend on European workers, more than 1 million of whom have moved to Britain in the last 15 years. Businesses fear that choking off the flow of lower-skilled workers could lead to acute employee shortages.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a fierce opponent of Brexit, said the immigration proposals would "devastate" the Scottish economy,"It's beyond me that any UK prime minister would want to have as her legacy turning the UK inwards and making it less open and welcoming to people from the rest of the world," Sturgeon said.
Ireland unveils contingency plans
Ireland on Wednesday disclosed its first major set of contingency plans in case
Britain crashes out of the EU without a withdrawal deal, including
possible emergency measures to avoid any shortages of medicines and food. The 130-page document detailed plans to boost infrastructure at
the country's ports and airports, and dozens of pieces of legislation to defend
everything from the country's health system to its joint electricity market with
The document did not touch on the crucial central issue for Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit: How Ireland can defend the single market without imposing physical infrastructure on the border with Northern Ireland.
Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney described the plans as "stark", but said his government was not yet making plans to defend the European Single Market along Ireland's 500-km land border with the British region of Northern Ireland.
The longer the political impasse drags on, the more worried British businesses get. The country's five leading business groups said in a rare joint statement that businesses "have been watching in horror" as the prospect of a disorderly Brexit grew more likely.
Organizations including the British
Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry urged lawmakers
to "return to their constituencies over Christmas and talk to their local
business communities.""We hope that they will listen and remember that when they
return to Parliament, the future course of our economy will be in their hands,"
the groups said.
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