The public understands that highly-skilled migration is beneficial to Britain. Therefore, there should be no cap on the most highly skilled and entrepreneurial who wish to come to this country. Companies like Airbus and BMW with manufacturing plants across the continent and UK need to be able to move skilled staff easily and a system of self-certification for such companies seems the sensible way forward.
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 EU migrants into line with present policy on non-EU migration for work.
This will allow us to place greater emphasis on the training, education and employment of the over 800,000 16-24 year old British citizens who are currently unemployed or inactive (as of December 2016).
To give the agricultural and horticultural sectors time to adapt, there will be a need for seasonal agricultural workers (SAWs) after Brexit, so reviving the post-war SAWs scheme to allow East European migration on short-term six-month visas to work in the industry should address that specific need. The number should be capped at 25,000 a year, tapered down over time to reflect an anticipated reduced need for workers as businesses invest in new and efficient technological systems.
Genuine international students should continue to be welcome in the UK. They are an asset to our economy and their time studying in UK universities fosters valuable cultural ties. 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, but singled out as a specific item.
Doctors and nurses should also continue to be able to come to the UK under the work permit scheme, as both qualify as highly skilled workers. Whilst limits on training places in medicine and nursing should be lifted to ensure that we can ensure an adequate number of doctors and nurses to meet the needs of the population, we should concentrate on training our own young people as the morality of siphoning off skilled people from less developed countries is highly questionable.
We need to apply and upgrade Border Force technology and 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, a policy now accepted by both sides.
In this essential debate about migration and the EU, we should not forget that half of net annual migration into the UK is represented by non-EU migrants, something over which we have had control. There is therefore much work to be done to fashion a system which benefits the economy but reassures a concerned public.
Sir Gerald Howarth is the Conservative MP for Aldershot, and a board member of Leave Means Leave
March 26th, 2018: HuffPost