Ministers will launch a fresh attempt to repeal EU freedom of movement rules in the UK as flagship immigration legislation appears before MPs.
The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill is intended to make it harder for "unskilled" workers to come to the UK.
It is part of the move towards the government’s new points-based immigration system, to be introduced from 2021, although it does not set out the details on this.
These will be fleshed out in the immigration rules, which will explain the future system for EU and non-EU nationals who move to the UK after the Brexit transition period ends on December 2020.
The Bill will be debated at second reading on Monday and then make its way through the parliamentary process.
It was previously introduced in the Commons in December 2018 but stalled weeks later as then prime minister Theresa May’s minority administration lacked the numbers to win key Brexit-linked votes.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson brings it back with an 80-seat majority but amid pressure for the immigration rules to support those dubbed “key workers” during the coronavirus pandemic.
A YouGov poll, for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), suggested 54% of Britons would support loosening immigration restrictions for workers who were defined as essential during the crisis.
The Government’s list of critical workers includes people in the food production and processing industry, such as delivery drivers, those working in waste disposal and more.
In February, the Government announced proposals for the new system, with points awarded for specific requirements such as being able to speak English to a certain level, having a job offer from an approved employer and meeting a salary threshold of £25,600.
Other points could be awarded for certain qualifications and if there is a shortage in a particular occupation.
A visa allowing doctors, nurses and health professionals from overseas to work in the NHS was introduced in March.
Ahead of the Bill’s return to the Commons, Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a brief statement: “This historic piece of legislation gives the UK full control of our immigration system for the first time in decades and the power to determine who comes to this country.
“Our new points-based system is firmer, fairer, and simpler.
“It will attract the people we need to drive our economy forward and lay the foundation for a high wage, high skill, high productivity economy.”
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Monday morning, the shadow home secretary said Labour would not be supporting the Bill because it is a “threat” to the health service and care sector.
Nick Thomas-Symonds continued: “It is rank hypocrisy to stand and clap for them on a Thursday night, then tell them they’re not welcome on a Monday.”
He continued: “We have 180,000 EU nationals who are here, who are frankly helping to keep our services going.
“There are other workers in other sectors – retail workers for example – all of whom the Government wants to send out a message to them with their new immigration system that they are low-skilled.
“I do not think it is right to be clapping our frontline workers and then today be sending out a signal that they are unskilled and unwelcome in the country.
“It is not fair and it is not in the national interest.”
Elsewhere, Satbir Singh, chief executive of the JCWI, called for further changes and said: “The fight against Covid-19 has shown us all just how much our survival and wellbeing depends on our key workers.
“So many of them have come from other countries and help keep this one running.
“Bus drivers and lorry drivers, care workers and shop workers, nurses and cleaners – they are not ‘unskilled’ or unwelcome, they are the backbone of our country and they deserve the security of knowing that this place can be their home too.”