Drop The Target: Senior Conservative MPs demand five-year immigration ban

Pro-Brexit politicians tell PM their hardline plan ‘will deliver on the will of the electorate’

Senior Conservative MPs are demanding Theresa May impose a five-year ban on unskilled immigrant visas, arguing the focus should be on young, unemployed UK citizens.

Leave Means Leave, a hardline pro-Brexit group that wants to leave the EU single market and “take control” of the UK’s borders, is advocating a new points-based immigration system, combined with work permits, to bring down net migration to 50,000 per year – half the Government’s current target.

The group, which includes at least 30 Tory MPs and Lords such as Owen Paterson, Dominic Raab and Gerald Howarth, said in a statement: “Brexit is not about splendid isolation – it’s about re-engaging with the world, without our wings clipped by the European Union.”

Steven Woolfe, an independent member of European parliament who represents the campaign, told LBC radio that the “philosophy” of the report was to “put Britain first” – in language similar to that of US President Donald Trump – to “reduce the numbers” over five years and bolster the number of staff for the Migration Advisory Council.

The former Ukip spokesman who quit the party after an altercation in Brussels sent him to hospital, said in a statement on the campaign’s website: “This new British Working Visa System will deliver on the will of the electorate. It won’t mean pulling up the drawbridge, as we will continue to encourage the best and the brightest to migrate and settle here.”

“But by introducing strict controls, an annual cap and a five-year freeze on unskilled migrants, it will reduce net migration year on year, lessen the strain on our public services and help build a more cohesive society. It will be a system fit for 21st century Britain.”

There would be no cap on highly skilled workers entering the UK under the plan, which encourages more UK citizens to work for the NHS.

A working visa would only be granted to someone with a job offer, who is sponsored by a company in the UK and has a minimum salary of £35,000. An immigrant would also have to take out a five-year private insurance plan to prevent them using the NHS until they are “qualified settlers”.

Critics of those who wish to cap immigration say the UK relies on an influx of both skilled and unskilled workers to work in social care and other industries that suffer a shortage of labour, and that current unskilled workers have faced exploitation and discrimination, working for less than the minimum wage.

The news comes after The Independent and Open Britain launched a joint campaign for the Government to abandon its target to lower net migration below 100,000 a year.

The Leave Means Leave report said the UK “ideally” would not guarantee permanent residency for EU nationals who came to the UK after Article 50 was triggered on 29 March, although they said it would be “wrong” to apply this rule retrospectively and asked the PM to apply a cut-off date for EU nationals this month.

The campaign also wants to ban new immigrants from gaining any benefits for at least five years, and only if they pay a set level of taxes during that time.

The campaign is publicly supported by more than 30 MPs and members of Government.

April 9th, 2017: Independent