Article first published on The Commentator.
Over recent weeks, people have been asking what the phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’ actually means. In summary, it means taking back control.
The one area where it is crucial to have control is over our borders. Unfortunately, this simply poses another question, how do we control our own borders
Our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced she doesn’t want a ‘points-based’ immigration system as it does not offer enough control. Instead, she would like to see a stricter work permit system. This is all made possible due to the Brexit vote.
Before Brexit occurs we have no control over our borders in relation to EU migrants, as the EU’s freedom of movement principle allows anyone from an EU member state to come to the UK — no questions asked.
As a result, the UK puts very strict rules on non-EU migrants in an attempt to fulfil the Government’s pledge (under David Cameron) to get net migration down to the tens of thousands. Despite these discriminatory actions, the Government failed to fulfil this pledge.
Vote Leave campaigned on immigration as it is was identified as of huge concern to the Great British Public. Their preferred immigration system was an Australian-style ‘points-based’ system. It’s worth remembering Vote Leave had the support of many Conservative MPs (crucially not Theresa May, who campaigned for the UK to remain inside the EU), with influential roles given to Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom, most of whom now form part of the current Government.
They will now be expected to backtrack on the pledges they made during the EU referendum campaign and support May’s position.
A ‘points-based’ immigration system works by assigning points to an applicant based on certain characteristics. If the appropriate number of points is reached the individual will be entitled to migrate into the country. The system can be made more or less onerous depending on what’s needed at the time.
Reducing the number of migrants is done in both or either of two ways — by increasing the total amount of points required, or decreasing the number of points given for a specific characteristic. A ‘points-based’ system takes into account a wide variety of circumstances, for example qualifications, whether a job is available, amount of money in the bank etc.
The ability to make the test stricter is the reason why comparisons to Australia taking in more migrants than the UK currently does is ridiculous. Australia is so sparsely populated it wishes to encourage immigration, while still being selective to benefit the country. However, this is a decision taken by the Australian Government and is not a necessary feature of a ‘points-based’ system.
This varies from Mrs May’s approach. She wants a work permit system, which is generally considered to be a far stricter approach than a points system, meaning an applicant must have a job in this country before being allowed entry. This doesn’t necessarily mean everybody with a job would be allowed in, as the Government could exclude certain jobs or professions if it wished to decrease supply of labour.
It would also be possible to achieve this through a ‘points-based’ system, by allocating a large number of points based upon having a job in relation to other characteristics. This would have the added feature of simultaneously allowing self-sufficient individuals to invest their lives, time and money in this country if they did not have a job from the outset.
An unexpected downside of a work-permit system could be some jobs in the UK only being advertised abroad resulting in these jobs being unavailable for people already living here and unable to find work. Jobs could be advertised overseas, and possibly in another language, despite the job being around the corner.
Then what happens if a person leaves that job — if they are not qualified to do anything else? It’s not so easy to repatriate people once they are over here and, perhaps, unqualified and jobless. So careful restrictions would need to be put in place.
The rationale for May’s reluctance to adopt a ‘points-based’ system is because of the abuse she heard of during a visit to Heathrow with David Cameron. Staff told them of problems caused by immigrants abusing student visa rules through a ‘points-based’ system.
May said “because they met the criteria, they were automatically let in…That’s the problem with a points-based system. I want a system where the government is able to decide who comes into the country. I think that’s what the British people want.”
This is obviously a complex subject which needs to be debated in a calm and rational way, rather than any system being imposed on us. We at Get Britain Out applaud Theresa May for having the courage to tackle this issue head-on, by taking a tough stance.
However, until the UK actually leaves the EU, we cannot regain control over our borders — and other aspects of our lives. The sooner we have this control the better.