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Immigration post-Brexit – A fair, flexible and forward-thinking immigration policy

Date: 08 04 2017
  • First detailed blueprint since referendum of what Britain’s new immigration system should look like


  • Report authored by former Ukip migration spokesman Steven Woolfe MEP – in his first major intervention since resigning from party in October


  • Calls for a new “fair, flexible and forward-thinking immigration policy” – and the Government to announce immediate immigration cut off for EU citizens in April 2017


  • Former ministers Owen Paterson MP and Sir Gerald Howarth MP back the new British Working Visa System – calling for a return to mid-1990s levels of immigration

Leave Means Leave will set out a plan tomorrow for reducing net-migration to 50,000 a year once the UK has left the European Union.

In the first blueprint published since the referendum of what Britain’s new immigration system should look like, the Brexit pressure group will call for a full five-year freeze on unskilled migration.

The report, authored by former Ukip migration spokesman Steven Woolfe MEP, sets out in detail how a new bespoke British Working Visa System would reduce overall numbers but continue to welcome the brightest and the best from around the world.

It will be Steven Woolfe’s first major intervention since resigning from Ukip in October.

In his report for Leave Means Leave, launching tomorrow at an event in Westminster, Woolfe calls for a “fair, flexible and forward-thinking” immigration system. This new working visa system would operate under a strict remit to reduce migration levels over the long term, to reflect both public opinion and the pressure being exerted on government budgets and public services.  

It combines the Australian style points-based system advocated by Vote Leave and Ukip during the referendum campaign – and the work permit system proposed by the Migration Watch think tank.

A working visa – or permit – will only be considered if the satisfactory amount of points is reached, a level that would be set by government. The points system will take into account education, qualifications and suitability for a job.

In addition, a potential new migrant would only be granted a working visa if they meet certain other requirements.

A working visa will only be granted if the applicant has a job offer, is sponsored by a company and a minimum annual salary offer of £35,000; has passed a complete English language test; has a five-year private health insurance contract to prevent dependency on the NHS; and has a satisfactory level of savings.

All migrants would receive the same rights as UK nationals after a five-year settlement period, so to ensure migrants have paid into the system for a minimum length of time before they can claim back. 

In summary – A new bespoke British Working Visa System

1) UK policy on immigration needs a new direction based on a philosophy of being fair, flexible and forward-thinking.

2) The UK should introduce a bespoke British Working Visa System, its aim being to reduce net migration to around 50,000 per year. This would bring migration levels down to those last seen in the mid-1990s.

3) The new system will be overseen by a revamped Migration Advisory Council   that will set targets on numbers, the criteria for visas and points and will report to Parliament, who will vote annually on the numbers.

4) The public understand that immigration can bring benefits and that any system should not discriminate against any person of talent or skill from wherever they come from. Therefore, there should be no cap on highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs, investors or those now in the highly skilled Tier 1 visa category.

5) There should be a moratorium on unskilled visas for five years, subject to specified exemptions laid out by the Migration Advisory Council. This will place a greater emphasis on the training, education and employment of 826,000 16-24 year old UK citizens who are currently unemployed or inactive (as of December 2016).

6) The Migration Advisory Council will implement a new temporary work permit scheme for seasonal agricultural workers. There will be a 50,000 annual cap for these temporary visas, tapering numbers down after the first full year of leaving the EU. This will encourage businesses to train replacements. These temporary visas will be capped at six months.

7) There should be no further restrictions on student immigration. International students are an asset to the UK economy and their time studying in UK universities fosters valuable cultural ties. They should continue to be counted in quarterly migration statistics.

8) In respect of the NHS, an independent body should be established to assess safe staffing levels. Exemptions should be made to allow additional skilled health workers from overseas if required, but consideration should be given to introduce a capping system and in turn increase the number of UK citizens working in the medical profession.

9) Border force technology and systems we use to monitor those entering the UK will be upgraded. An effective working visa system should be integrated with National Insurance and passport controls so accurate monitoring of numbers can take place.

10) Those who are granted temporary working visas would not be eligible to social benefits or housing benefits. A new immigrant will only be entitled to benefits after having paid taxes at a set level for five years.

11) We will end family reunion for international students and temporary workers.

12) Current EU nationals will be given the right to remain indefinitely, as long as the EU grants the same rights to UK citizens living in Europe.

13) Ideally, any EU nationals who entered the UK after March 29th 2017, the day Article 50 was invoked by the UK Government, should not have the right to remain indefinitely unless they qualify for one of the new visas. However, as it would be wrong to announce this retrospectively, the Government should immediately announce a cut off date in April 2017.
14) The UK will review its visa revenue charges as part of its Brexit negotiations with the European Union. In the event of the EU placing onerous tourist and travel restrictions on UK citizens, we will consider introducing a standard tourist fee similar to the United States ESTA. This would add additional investment to the Border Force system, allowing an increase in staffing levels and greater technology improvements. Charges for visas – particularly for Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants – will be put out for consultation.

15)  To improve integration and reduce segregation in our communities, British law will be regarded as supreme and a Royal Commission will be established to review how best to build a more cohesive society. Practices such as FGM are illegal, however there needs to be a way to deliver a successful prosecution.

Addressing a Leave Means Leave audience in Westminster tomorrow, Steven Woolfe MEP will say:

“Brexit has given us a golden opportunity to change our immigration system for the better. With the UK on a path to leaving the European Union, the government now has the moral responsibility to deliver the will of the British people. This report provides them with a blueprint for how they can do just that.

“We need an immigration system that is fair, flexible and forward-thinking. It must be fair in its outlook, flexible in practice and forward thinking for our economy. Brexit is not about splendid isolation – it’s about reengaging with the world, without our wings clipped by the European Union.

“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.”

Former Conservative cabinet minister, Owen Paterson MP, commented:

“The overwhelming majority of Britons feel absolutely no resentment towards workers or students from overseas, recognising and valuing the skills and experience which they bring.

“But mass migration at its current level has fostered resentment, depressed wages and placed an excessive burden on our public services. Once we have left the EU, the government must enact a new bespoke immigration policy – like a British Working Visa System – to bring immigration levels down to the tens of thousands.

“We will continue to provide a welcome and a home to visitors from abroad.  Whether they are eye surgeons from Bangalore or skilled abattoir workers from Eastern Europe, it is manifestly in our national interest to be as open as possible in attracting the best talent from across the world.

“But we have to do more to address the uncontrolled inflow of unskilled labour and – in doing so – win back the trust of the British people. It is perfectly possible to have a system that works for business but returns us to the net migration levels of the mid-1990s.”

Commenting on the report, former Tory minister, Sir Gerald Howarth MP, said:

“I welcome this paper as a thoughtful, measured and constructive contribution to this vital debate about migration policy.

“As Steven Woolfe points out, concerns across the UK about immigration were a key factor in last year’s EU referendum.  Recovering complete control of our national borders will be one of Brexit’s prizes. This paper responds to those public concerns, setting out practical measures by which we can reduce migrant numbers to manageable levels, suggesting an annual limit of 50,000 which I welcome.
“He is also right to propose an immediate cut-off date for those citizens of other EU countries qualifying for indefinite leave to remain here.

“The paper rightly emphasises the need to upskill our own population to reduce dependency upon migration, but also makes clear that the UK will not be pulling up the drawbridge and will remain keen to attract top talent from around the world, but able to decide these matters as a sovereign nation state without any interference from Brussels.”


Read the full report here