LONDON — An influential hardline pro-Brexit group has published an immigration model it wants Prime Minister Theresa May to implement once Britain has left the European Union.
The model, outlined in a report authored by former UKIP man Steven Woolfe MEP, calls on the government to freeze all unskilled immigration for five years and adopt a tough points system for skilled migrants seeking British visas.
The “fair, flexible and forward-thinking-immigration policy” would bring net immigration to the UK down to 5o,000 after Britain completes its exit from the European Union, Woolfe claimed at the report’s launch on Monday morning.
Woolfe authored the report on behalf of Leave Means Leave, a pro-Brexit group with members including a number of Conservative Party MPs like Owen Paterson, Dominic Raab, and John Whittingdale.
Critics say it would damage the economy by starving a number of sectors of foreign workers. For example, 12% of National Health Service employees are nationals of other countries, a Commons report published today said.
The Liberal Democrats accused Leave Means Leave of being intent on “crippling the British economy and wrecking public services by keeping essential workers out of the UK.”
The report details a mechanism that allows exceptions in areas like agriculture and the NHS but stresses that priority should be given to native job seekers. This is how the proposed post-Brexit immigration model would work:
- The UK would introduce a British Working Visa System to take effect as soon as Brexit is over. Its aim would be to bring net migration levels down to around 50,000 a year. Net migration to the UK was 273,000 as of September.
- This system would be overseen by a redesigned Migration Advisory Council that will report to Parliament. MPs would vote on how many immigrations should be accepted year by year.
- No visas will be given to unskilled migrants for an initial period of five years.
- Those allowed to apply for a visa must meet the following criteria to pass: must have an offer for a job paying at least £35,000 a year; must be sponsored by the employers; must pass an English language test; must have private insurance guaranteed for at least five years; must have “sufficient” savings.
- There would be no further restrictions on international students — but they would still be included in net migration figures.
- The Migrant Advisory Council would implement a temporary work permit scheme for seasonal agricultural workers that would be capped at 50,000 visas per year.
- An independent body would be established to decide where exceptions should be allowed in the NHS.
Non-EU nationals coming to Britain are already subject to some similar restrictions. Immigrants seeking a visa to work in the UK must have a graduate-level role waiting for them with an annual salary of no less than £30,000.
However, the Leave Means Leave plan would add make the applications process tougher and extend it to all immigrations, regardless of what country or continent they are coming to Britain from.
Woolfe is without a party after leaving UKIP last year following an alleged physical altercation with fellow MEP Mike Hookem. Nevertheless, the Manchester-born MEP is confident that May’s government will consider the proposals, describing the plan as a “ready-made blueprint” for the government to put into practice after Brexit.
May has vowed to end the free movement of EU citizens to Britain as part of Brexit but has refused to promise a significant decrease in immigration. Last week the prime minister hinted that the free movement of EU nationals could continue even after the two-year Article 50 process has expired, as part of the transitional arrangement.
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