Restoring public trust in immigration policy - a points-based non-discriminatory immigration system

Statement by Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, and Gisela Stuart


Migration brings many benefits to Britain - culturally, socially and economically. 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.

Last week the Office for National Statistics published migration statistics for 2015. Last year, 270,000 people came to this country from the EU. Net migration overall was 184,000. That means we are adding a population the size of Oxford to the UK every year just from EU migration.

This puts particular strain on public services. Class sizes will rise and waiting lists will lengthen if we don't tackle free movement. 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. Their arrival will put further strain on schools and hospitals.

Last year, 77,000 jobseekers from the EU came to the UK. It was Government policy that ‘EU migrants should have a job offer before they come here.’ The Government failed to achieve this during the renegotiation of our membership.

If we vote to remain in the EU then continued free movement for jobseekers will place considerable pressure on the wages of low paid British workers. The head of the IN campaign, Lord Rose, has admitted that wages are kept low by our membership of the EU and would ‘go up’ if we vote to leave. The Bank of England has found that a ten percent rise in the proportion of new people coming here is associated with a two percent reduction in pay for working people. This is good for some of the multinationals funding the IN campaign. It is not good for British families struggling to make ends meet.

The current EU approach to immigration is also bad for security. The European Court of Justice can interfere with our ability to deport criminals and others whose presence here is not conducive to the public good. For example, it has hindered our ability to deport the terrorist recruiter Abu Hamza's daughter-in-law, even though she was convicted of a very serious offence.

And the EU's policies are failing in humanitarian terms. The tragic scenes unfolding in the Mediterranean underline how badly the European Union is handling population movements and migration pressures. People smugglers and organised criminals are exploiting this desperate situation and the EU is failing to tackle this trade in human misery.

If we remain in the EU the situation is only likely to get worse. The European Court of Justice can use the Charter of Fundamental Rights to overturn decisions of elected politicians on asylum policy. It is now in charge of how we implement the crucial 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. We need a new approach on refugees but the EU's institutions stand in the way.

There is also the basic lack of democratic consent for what is taking place. Voters were promised repeatedly at elections that net immigration could be cut to the tens of thousands. This promise is plainly not achievable as long as the UK is a member of the EU and the failure to keep it is corrosive of public trust in politics.

These are the basic facts on UK immigration policy:

  • A vote to remain is a vote to maintain permanently the EU Treaty principle of 'free movement of people'.
  • A vote to remain is a vote to ensure that we must admit economic migrants from the EU, whether or not they have a job offer.
  • A vote to remain is a vote to affirm the European Court of Justice’s ultimate authority over whether we can remove persons whose presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good - in this and other respects we do not control our borders.
  • A vote to remain is a vote to leave the European Court of Justice able to use the Charter of Fundamental Rights to strike down decisions of the UK Government and Parliament about asylum and immigration policy
  • A vote to remain is a vote for the UK to continue supporting the EU's failed policies to deal with the tragic crisis in the Mediterranean.

These problems will only get worse when countries in the pipeline to join the EU become members in the near future. British taxpayers are already paying nearly £2 billion for Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey to join the EU. The European Commission recently announced an acceleration of these plans and is already extending visa-free travel to the border with Syria and Iraq. This is dangerous and is not in our interests.

We therefore propose that if Britain votes to take back control on 23 June, we should introduce a new, safer and more humane immigration system as rapidly as possible. The main principles for such a new system will, we believe, be broadly supported across British society.

First, there will be no change for Irish citizens. The right of Irish citizens to enter, reside and work in the UK is already enshrined in our law. This will be entirely unaffected by a vote to leave on 23 June.

As the Northern Ireland Secretary has made clear, the common travel area that has existed since the creation of an independent Irish state will not be affected. There will be no change to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Second, there will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.

Third, we will rapidly amend the European Communities Act 1972 to take back the power to remove criminals and other persons whose presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good. There are dangerous people living in the UK who we cannot currently remove because of EU law. We will regain the power to deport terrorists and terrorist sympathisers and stop violent criminals entering the UK - powers that EU law currently denies to us.

Connected to this is the need immediately to end the application of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights to UK law. This Charter gives the rogue European Court practically unlimited powers to extend its jurisdiction. By ending its application in UK law, we will take back control of how Britain implements the crucial 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and end the Charter’s ability to affect immigration and asylum law.

Fourth, by the next general election, we will create a genuine Australian-style points based immigration system. The automatic right of all EU citizens to come to live and work in the UK will end, as will EU control over vital aspects of our social security system. EU citizens will be subject to legislation made by those we elect in Westminster, not in Brussels. We could then create fairness between EU citizens and others, including those from Commonwealth countries.

Those seeking entry for work or study should be admitted on the basis of their skills without discrimination on the ground of nationality. To gain the right to work, economic migrants will have to be suitable for the job in question. For relevant jobs, we will be able to ensure that all those who come have the ability to speak good English. Such a system can be much less bureaucratic and much simpler than the existing system for non-EU citizens.

If we implement these principles, for the first time in a generation it will be possible for politicians to keep their promises on migration. If they fail, there will be no hiding behind EU rules and the European Court. The British public will be able to decide what immigration policy they want.

It is fundamentally important that immigration policy has democratic consent. We believe that the safer choice is to Vote Leave on 23 June and ensure that the public can vote for those who determine Britain’s immigration policy.

We also think that this system will be fairer, more humane, and better for the economy. We will end discrimination against non-EU countries. We will end our support for the EU’s disastrous policies that have encouraged the people-smugglers. We will be able to manage immigration according to the needs of the economy with a new points based system. We will welcome new citizens who wish to contribute to our society, as so many immigrants have done. And we will be able to remove those who abuse our hospitality.

We urge people to Vote Leave on 23 June and take back control.


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