Pursuing a points-based immigration system for EU migrants could derail Britain’s economy, Prime Minister David Cameron said after three pro-Brexit Tories proposed the move if Brits vote to leave the EU.
On Tuesday morning, leading Tory Leave campaigners ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson, Justice Secretary Michael Gove and Employment Minister Priti Patel jointly announced their support for a “genuine Australian-style points-based immigration system.”
The policy shift, they explained, would mean the right of EU citizens to enter Britain to work would evaporate in the wake of a Brexit.
Remain campaigners, who oppose Britain’s exit from the EU, argue the move would wreak economic disaster and could actually increase net migration.
Labour Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, who supports the Remain campaign along with most of his fellow party members, accused Gove and Johnson of going “full-on UKIP” with the bold proposal.
“If we introduced a points-based system with EU, the terms of our trade deal with them would be ruinous,” he said.
Pondering the prospect of a points-based system, Cameron told BBC Radio 5 Live that Australia attracts more migrants per head than Britain. He said the policy would erode UK economic security and Brits’ freedom of movement in Europe.
“I also think if we were to say to Europeans they needed work permits to come to Britain, European countries would say to us we need work permits to go and work there,” he said.
“So not only would we crash our economy, we’d also reduce opportunities to work in other countries.”
Tory Chancellor George Osborne also weighed into the debate, calling the proposal “fantasy economics.” Osborne has himself been branded a fantasist by economists over his relentless pursuit of austerity.
“What a contrast today between the Leave campaign with their fantasy politics, unworkable proposals that will increase immigration, take us out of the single market and cost us jobs, and the reality check in the real world of the highly respected OECD, which points out the grim economic future for the UK outside the EU,” Osborne said.
“It says the threat of leaving the EU is already slowing the British economy and that the hit to people’s living standards will be strongly negative if we do vote to leave.”
Non-EU migrants looking to enter Britain are required to apply through a points-based system. This policy limits the the flow of skilled migrants from non-EU countries to 20,700 per year. In parallel to this, skilled workers from outside the bloc must earn more than £35,000 per year to secure entry to Britain. Brexit campaigners hope this system, which was introduced in April, can be extended to EU migrants.
Brash proposals from Britain’s right-wing Brexit camp are breeding increasing alarm among Remain campaigners. Downing Street has dismissed the Leave campaign’s arguments, branding them unworkable.
Gove & Boris going full-on UKIP now. If we introduced a points-based system with EU, the terms of our trade deal with them would be ruinous.
— Andy Burnham (@andyburnhammp) June 1, 2016
Cameron’s criticism of a proposed point-based system for EU migrants comes as the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) warns a Brexit could rattle the global economy, and cause a 5 percent drop in UK gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020.
The OECD report, published on Wednesday, said there could be worldwide financial turmoil if Britain leaves the EU.
Although Tory pro-Brexit campaigners dismissed the think tank’s analysis as biased, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said it highlights the failure of Osborne’s economic policies.
“Not only has productivity slumped, but the OECD also highlight the risk of further bubbles in the housing market whilst house building continues at too low a level,” he said.
McDonnell warned that Britain’s so-called economic recovery “is built on sand.”