The United Kingdom will introduce a points-based immigration system based on the Australian-model should it exit the European Union following the Brexit referendum, the Leave campaign says.
Leaders of the campaign argue that being a member of the EU means the UK has no control over immigration and that leaving the union will wrest that control back.
If they are successful in bringing about Britain’s exit from the EU in the 23 June poll, they say they will push then to introduce a “non-discriminatory” skills and language points system for immigrants, modelled on the system currently applied by Australia, by 2020.
“Migration brings many benefits to Britain – culturally, socially and economically,” senior Leave campaigners Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Gisela Stuart said in a joint statement issued on Wednesday.
“We want Britain to continue to benefit from migration. But if we are to welcome more people to Britain then the public must be reassured that we have control over who comes here.
“Our membership of the EU means we don’t have control.”
The statement also stoked fears that Britain’s public services are specifically under threat from the migration of southern Europeans.
“As the euro crisis continues, more people from southern Europe will want to escape unemployment and austerity in their countries by coming to the UK,” it said.
“Their arrival will put further strain on schools and hospitals.”
In the statement, the campaign argues that the UK’s net migration is currently too high and reducing it is impossible so long as it is a member of the EU and subject to its rules of free movement between borders for its citizens.
Under the system proposed by the Leave campaign prospective immigrants, including citizens of the EU, would only be granted entry to live and work in the UK after being assessed for their suitability for work.
An exception would be for Irish citizens who would still be free to live and work in the UK.
Responding to fears that EU citizens currently living in Britain may be forced to leave, the Leave campaign proposes that if they are already lawfully resident they will be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain visa status.
In the Australian model, vocations which have a lack of qualified workers available in the country are identified. Migrants with those skills are given preference in order to help fill the skills gaps.
“To gain the right to work, economic migrants will have to be suitable for the job in question,” the Leave campaign statement said.
“For relevant jobs, we will be able to ensure that all those who come have the ability to speak good English.”
In separate comments, senior Leave campaigner Michael Gove said: “If we have an Australian points-based system, then we can decide who comes here.”
Critics of the Leave campaign’s proposals have pointed out, however, that the Australian model is part of a system geared towards increasing the population of the country and reiterated the claim that exiting the UK would carry a heavy economic cost.
“Australia, who have a points based immigration system, have twice as many migrants per head as the UK,” Will Straw of Britain Stronger in Europe said, according to Reuters.
“Economic experts are agreed that leaving the Single Market would lead to recession – costing jobs and raising prices.”