We will today inform the European Commission and the Croatian Government of our decision not to extend further the transitional restrictions on Croatian citizens’ access to the UK labour market when they expire on 30 June 2018. This is in line with the provisions of the Accession Treaty for Croatia, under which temporary restrictions have been in force since Croatia joined the European Union on 1 July 2013. There are only three remaining member states (Austria, Slovenia and the Netherlands) who also currently impose transitional restrictions on Croatians, and will need to consider the case for extending these before July.
Since 2013 when Croatia joined the EU, their citizens, unless exempt, require authorisation from the Home Office before they can take up a post in the UK. After 12 months’ employment, Croatians are free to work in the UK without restriction.
It was always the case that these restrictions were temporary and it would only be legal to extend them further if there was an economic case that to do otherwise would cause or threaten serious labour market disturbance. We have examined the evidence carefully and no such case can be made.
The UK labour market is very strong with near record levels of unemployment and employment. There is a low volume of flows from Croatia to the UK, and a low number of resident Croatians in the UK. Long-term international migration flows suggest an estimated total as low as 4,000 long-term immigrants from Malta, Cyprus and Croatia arrived in the UK in the year to June (ONS, 2017). Estimates of the total number of Croatians resident in the UK in 2016 are below 10,000 (ONS, 2016). The cultural/social network ‘pull’ factor is limited, particularly given the much larger Croatian diaspora size in other EU Member States (e.g. Germany).
This is in contrast to our consideration of extending controls for the EU2 (Romania and Bulgaria) when our economy was still fragile after the recession. Figures at the same point of those transitional controls showed there were around 57,000 Romanians and 35,000 Bulgarians living in the UK.
Our conclusion is that there is insufficient evidence to satisfy the test of ‘serious labour market disturbance’ that is required to extend the restrictions.
The decision not to extend the restrictions will mean that Croatian citizens will be able to seek and obtain employment in the UK on the same basis as currently enjoyed by all other EU citizens.
We will not discriminate between nationals of the EU member states in our implementation of the Citizens’ Rights deal. Croatian citizens will be able to apply for settled status on the same terms as all other EU citizens.
We have been clear that we will take back control of immigration and our borders when we leave the EU, and we will put in place an immigration system which works in the best interests of the whole of the UK.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords