We need to control immigration in a fair and flexible way post-Brexit

23rd June 2016 marked a potential turning point in the future of the UK’s immigration policy. For decades, consecutive governments were unable to control our borders and reduce overall levels of net migration. They had been hampered in doing so because a large part of UK policy had been effectively outsourced to the European Union through rules on free movement of people.

After decades of porous borders, it was no surprise that the desire to control levels of immigration was the main reason many voted to leave the EU.

Following the largest democratic mandate in British electoral history, the UK Government will, when we leave, for the first time in over 40 years, have full domestic control over all of the UK’s immigration policy, procedures and rules. It is vital it uses this control properly and does not fudge the issue in order to pander to the EU.

To reflect the regained opportunity to control British borders to meet British needs, Leave Means Leave is proposing a bespoke British work permit system – tailor-made for Britain in the 21st century. It will be a system that reflects the mood of the British public and reduces net migration to sustainable and manageable levels.

Our immigration policy is defined by a philosophy of being fair, flexible and forward-thinking. This means the UK having a bespoke British work permit system, with the eventual aim of reducing net migration to around the levels last seen in the mid-1990s and coming into effect from 30th March 2019 – ready from day one of any ‘transition period’.

The public understands that highly-skilled migration is beneficial to Britain. Therefore, there should be no cap on the most highly-skilled and entrepreneurial workers who wish to come to this country – the system should not discriminate against those with the skills and talent that we need based on their country of origin.

There should be no further admission of EU workers for lower-skilled employment, subject to specified exemptions as advised by the Migration Advisory Committee, bringing the EU into line with present policy on non-EU migration for work.

Not only is migration for lower-skilled work less of an economic benefit to Britain than other types of migration, but it can also be problematic for source countries. Many migrants from Eastern Europe arrive in Britain to take jobs for which they are over-qualified, depriving their home countries of the skills and talent needed to develop their own economies and provide good public services such as healthcare.

In future, we should place much greater emphasis on the training and upskilling of those currently in unemployment, including the over 800,000 16-24 year old British citizens who are currently unemployed or inactive (as of December 2016). Technical and vocational education should be expanded across the country to ensure that there are pathways for young people into semi-skilled and trade occupations.

We recognise that there will be a need for seasonal agricultural workers (SAWs) after Brexit to give the agricultural and horticultural sectors time to adapt. We propose a revival of the SAWs scheme to allow migration on short-term 6-month visas to work in the industry. The number will be capped at
25,000 a year, tapered down over time to reflect the decreased need for workers as businesses invest in new and efficient technological systems.

Genuine international students are an asset and should continue to be welcome in the UK. They should continue to be counted in net migration statistics, as are all other migrants who come to the UK for more than a year.

In respect of the NHS, doctors and nurses will continue to be able to come to the UK under the work permit scheme, as both qualify as highly-skilled workers. However, limits on training places in medicine and nursing should be lifted to ensure that we can train an adequate number of doctors and nurses to meet the needs of the population.

Border force technology and systems we use to monitor those entering the UK should be upgraded to ensure that we keep pace with technological developments and create a border fit for the 21st century. Technology such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition will be able to assist in creating frictionless border and customs regimes between the UK and other EU member states, enabling vehicles and their goods to swiftly and easily enter the UK.

Home Office systems should be fully integrated with other departments to ensure that data is available on stocks and flows in a timely fashion. For example, data on entry and exit should be linked up with the visa system as well as data on National Insurance numbers. Only those who are granted permanent residence should be eligible for social benefits, housing benefits and social housing, in keeping with the principle of fairness that we should all have to pay in to the system.

EU nationals who arrive before Brexit should be allowed to apply for permanent residence after five years in the UK. They would then be granted the same rights as those from outside the EU who have settled in Britain. All migrants will continue to be able to apply for citizenship, giving them the same rights as British citizens.

Leave Means Leave has always been clear that the wishes of the largest democratic mandate in British history must not only be respected, but delivered – and this immigration policy will address their concerns on immigration in a way that is fair, flexible and forward-thinking.