Migration Watch UK has issued a report examining for the first time what a post “Brexit” immigration regime might look like and estimating its likely effect on net migration to the UK. The report does not advocate either exit from or remaining in the EU.
Any post exit regime would involve, possibly lengthy, negotiations. It is sometimes simply assumed that continued free movement would be the inevitable outcome. This report is the first to examine what a more effective regime might look like. The authors estimate that British exit from the EU (and EEA) could enable the UK government to reduce net migration from the EU by about 100,000 a year from current levels.
The majority of EU migrants who have arrived since 2004 are in low-skilled work. These numbers could be substantially reduced if the UK were to permit entry only to higher skilled workers by the issue of work permits on a similar basis to those currently issued for non EEA workers; only 20% of EU migrants who arrived since 2004 are in such higher skilled work. A reduction in EU workers doing low skilled work would permit a review of the need for a cap on higher skilled workers, of whatever nationality, to ensure that Britain can attract the very best from around the world.
The report also concludes that there is no reason why there should be restrictions on EU citizens coming to the UK as students or tourists or, indeed, to live provided that they are self-sufficient (as are most British pensioners in Spain, France and other EU countries). It is to be expected, of course, that EU countries would reciprocate by requiring work permits for British workers wishing to work in their countries although they would have an interest in retaining as much free movement as possible.
The rights of those British citizens already working or living in another EU country, or those of EU citizens now in Britain would be preserved under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969. Under this Convention, withdrawal from a treaty releases the parties from any future obligation to each other but does not affect any rights or obligations acquired under it before withdrawal.
Commenting, Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “It is time to examine possible alternative immigration regimes. Under the current arrangements all the signs are that EU migration to Britain will continue at a substantial rate for the foreseeable future; indeed, immigrants tend to generate further migration as their friends and relatives join them in their new countries. Net EU migration now amounts to 180,000 a year. Work permits for EU citizens would substantially reduce net migration and its resultant pressure on our population and public services.”