Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out introducing a points-based immigration system on the grounds that it does not hand enough power to the government to regulate migration, and has denied that she has gone soft on immigration.
It comes as Downing Street insiders suggested a new work permits system may be introduced, ensuring that all migrants have a job in place before they arrive in the UK.
Yesterday Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party’s outgoing leader, accused Ms. May of “backsliding” on promises made by prominent Leave campaigners during the referendum to implement an Australian-style points-based immigration system upon Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU).
But the Prime Minister has countered, arguing that a points-based system does not confer the level of control over migration that the British people would expect, as anyone who could prove they had enough points would be eligible to come.
Speaking at the conclusion of the G20 summit in China, she said: “What the British people voted for on the 23rd of June was to bring some control into the movement of people from the European Union to the UK. A points-based system does not give you that control,” The Telegraph has reported.
She explained that, in 2010, shortly after becoming Home Secretary, she was told by border officers that one of the biggest migration challenges facing Britain was foreign students.
“They don’t speak English, they don’t know which institution they’re going to and they don’t know what course it is they’re doing,” she said. “And so the system is being abused.
“But because they met the criteria they were automatically allowed in. And that’s the problem with a points-based system. What the British people want to see is an element of control. There are various ways in which you can do that.”
However, using language which will alarm those concerned about a watering down of Brexit, she said five times that she wanted “some” or an “element” of control over the free movement of EU migrants.
Her comments follow those she made to reporters, while en-route to the G20 Summit in China, in which she said there were questions hanging over “whether or not points-based systems do work”. During that exchange she appeared to leave reporters with the impression that EU citizens may still receive preferential treatment.
Mr. Farage said in his statement: “Given that myself and others also campaigned for a migration system that would treat all who wanted to come equally, any preference for EU nationals would be totally unacceptable.”
According to the Daily Mail, figures close to her top team are pressing for the Prime Minister to bring in a work permit regime in which all migrants, both those from within and without EU countries, would be required to show that they had found employment in the UK before making the move.
It is hoped such a scheme would put an end to the thousands of migrants who head to the UK annually looking for mostly low-skilled work.