Britain could cut net migration by 100,000 a year after leaving the European Union by implementing some very simple policy changes, the head of a leading migration watchdog has claimed.
Writing in The Spectator, Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of Migration Watch UK, says that in the event of Brexit Britain would be able to significantly reduce migration by making small changes that are currently forbidden under EU law.
Lord Green says the main thing that needs to be controlled is work permits. If EU migrants were subjected to the same requirements as non-EU citizens it could sharply reduce immigration without damaging the economy.
He estimates that net migration could be cut by 100,000 a year just through this simple policy in a post-Brexit Britain.
“Tourism would not suffer,” he adds. “Obviously, there would be no need to require tourist visas for EU citizens any more than we do for Americans now. Nor would there be any need for restrictions on students, or genuine marriage. Even freedom to live elsewhere could be protected: EU citizens could still come to live in the UK provided they had the means to support themselves.”
Lord Green also argues that Britain should eschew an Australian points-based system if it wants to reduce immigration and instead adopt a “tough system of work permits confined to the highly skilled while, as far as possible, preserving free movement in both directions for other purposes”.
“It would be enforced by extending current penalties (hefty fines and possible imprisonment) to any citizens – European or otherwise – who were found to be working here without a permit,” he says.
“Another advantage would be the ability to check all incomers to the UK against a watch list: criminals could be removed or deported in accordance with UK law, rather than much softer EU regulations.”
The comments come after Migration Watch UK published a report today suggesting that up to half a million migrants could enter the UK after 2020 once they have been granted citizenship in other EU countries.
The report said that between 240,000 and 480,000 may travel to Britain thanks to EU free movement rules.
“While the UK has so far been largely shielded from the crisis in southern Europe, this potential flow can only add to the impact of migration which is already seriously affecting communities across the country,” Lord Green said.