LONDON — A majority of British voters want to see unskilled EU immigration reduced through a cap, but still want skilled workers to be allowed to enter the UK after Brexit.
A report from the British Future think tank released on Monday showed that 63% of those polled support a cap on unskilled immigrants coming to Britain. That includes 75% of Conservative voters and 71% of those who supported Leave in the EU referendum.
The polling, which was carried out by ICM, also revealed that 66% of people do not think that the Conservative government will achieve its target of reducing net migration to the UK to below 100,000, and 63% think it should be replaced with separate targets for different types of immigrant.
British Future argue that Brexit is the opportunity to “get things right on immigration” and that the vote was a “reset moment” that can be used to create a new system which has the support of the British public.
The Director of British Future Sunder Katwala told HuffPost: “A new post-Brexit immigration system that differentiates between skilled and low-skilled EU immigration sounds like common sense to most people.
“They can see that we need doctors, engineers and other professionals but they want more control over low-skilled immigration. Even there, the public knows we need people to pick the fruit and veg, build more houses and care for the elderly.”
The research suggests that a large majority of the population want skilled immigration to stay at the same level, with 86% of those polled backing continued access from the EU for these workers.
This is reflected across the political spectrum, with 82% of Leave voters saying they are happy for high-skilled migration from the EU “to remain at current levels or increase” (51% remain the same, 31% increase), and 90% of Remain voters agreeing (47% stay the same, 43% increase.)”
This is also the same for skilled workers from outside of the EU, with only 16% of respondents backing a reduction in skilled immigration from around the world.
Conservative MP Nicky Morgan and chair of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee said: “This research shows that the immigration debate is much more nuanced than it is often portrayed, that people do appreciate the benefits immigration can bring but it is also clear that a discussion on community cohesion and integration must sit alongside the wider immigration debate.”
Leave voters were mostly against migrants bringing extended family with them to the UK, with 75% wanting to see a decrease in these figures.
57% were also against immediate family coming to the UK as well.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock said: “Leaving the EU will mean changes to Britain’s immigration policy. Reforms are needed if we are to deliver the ultimate prize of a higher-wage, higher-skilled economy.”
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