European migrants coming to the UK will have to prove that they can speak good English and be subject to an Australian-style points system if Britain votes to leave the EU, according Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel.
The three leading Conservative out campaigners, who all sit in David Cameron’s main or political cabinet, have issued a joint statement about the rules they would want to implement in a post-Brexit Britain.
“By the next general election, we will create a genuine Australian-style points based immigration system. The automatic right of all EU citizens to come to live and work in the UK will end, as will EU control over vital aspects of our social security system,” they write.
Claiming that the changes will create a level playing field for EU citizens and those coming from Commonwealth countries, they add: “Those seeking entry for work or study should be admitted on the basis of their skills without discrimination on the ground of nationality. To gain the right to work, economic migrants will have to be suitable for the job in question. For relevant jobs, we will be able to ensure that all those who come have the ability to speak good English.”
However, they insist there will be no change for Irish citizens who will still be able to travel freely into the UK, despite warnings that it could offer a backdoor for EU migrants, and that EU citizens already in the country will be granted indefinite leave.
The intervention, which comes a day after Johnson and Gove claimed that they would use money clawed back from the EU to cut VAT on fuel bills, appears to be an attempt to offer voters the idea of an alternative Tory government after the 23 June referendum.
On Wednesday, the Conservative campaigners will try to build on the statement, by making the case across the country on the Vote Leave battle bus.
As well as talking about those coming to work, they accuse the EU of allowing people smugglers to exploit the refugee crisis on Europe’s border, saying that they are “failing to tackle this trade in human misery”.
The group concede that immigration is culturally, socially and economically enriching for Britain, but say the public needs more reassurance and that membership of the EU prevents control. In particular, they highlight pressure on class sizes and hospitals.
But remain campaigners said the proposal would take Britain out of the single market, wrecking the economy and potentially triggering more immigration. They said the thinktank, Migration Watch, had said the points-based system would be “totally unsuitable for the UK”.
Will Straw, the executive director of Britain Stronger In Europe, said: “This system will not work ... Australia, who have a points based immigration system, have twice as many migrants per head as the UK. Economic experts are agreed that leaving the single market would lead to recession – costing jobs and raising prices.”
This article was written by Anushka Asthana Political editor, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 31st May 2016 23.36 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010