Britain will be able to slash immigration by 100,000 per year after Brexit without damaging the economy, a new report has said.
Migration Watch UK says that ministers should only give work permits to 30,000 highly skilled European Union (EU) migrants a year after Britain leaves the bloc, a number that would still allow businesses to recruit essential staff.
The policy would put an end to the “open door” for unskilled EU migrants, thus relieving pressure on public services and helping push up wages for lower-paid workers.
Migration Watch argues, however, that the restrictions need not apply to students, tourists, people on business trips and EU migrants who are retired.
Alp Mehmet, Vice-Chair of Migration Watch, said: “A sensible limit on skilled EU migration would maintain the inflow of qualified EU workers who benefit our society and economy while allowing some room for expansion.
“At the same time, closing our doors to low-skilled workers is also essential to reduce the scale of immigration and restore public confidence in its control.”
Around 1.6 million EU citizens have migrated to the UK over the past decade, however Migration Watch says that only 22 per cent were either highly skilled or took jobs where there were official shortages, such as nurses or IT professionals.
They calculated that only 25,000 per year would qualify for work visas if they came from outside the EU.
“We recommend that the annual limit should be set at 30,000 a year, based on the 25,000 average arrivals per year who are now in highly skilled work, plus 5,000 additional permits to allow for expansion,” the think tank said.
Just one month before the EU referendum, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the true scale of EU immigration into Britain was twice as high as previously reported.
The admission came after Breitbart London revealed that although official figures showed only 53,000 Romanian and Bulgarians had arrived in the UK in the year to March 2015, there were a total of 214,000 new National Insurance numbers granted to Romanians and Bulgarians in the year to June 2015.
The ONS admitted that its official figures did not include “short-term” EU migrants, who come to work in the UK for less than 12 months.