No 10 rules out points-based immigration system for Britain
has ruled out a points-based immigration system supported by the official Brexit campaign, while promising a more effective way of bringing “some control” over the number of people coming to the UK.
The prime minister was accused of backsliding on promises made by Vote Leave after she of a system admitting people on the basis of their skills and refused to commit an extra £100m to the NHS.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday at the G20, May insisted that she opposed a points-based system because it did not give the government enough of a say over who comes to Britain. Shaking her head at the claim that she was going soft on controlling immigration, the prime minister said: “What the British people voted for on 23 June was to bring some control into the movement of people from the to the UK. A points-based system does not give you that control.”
In an attempt to illustrate her point, May said Heathrow staff had told her and David Cameron that immigrants were abusing student visa rules through a points-based system.
“But because they met the criteria, they were automatically let in,” she said. “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.”
After the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage suggested that the prime minister was betraying leave voters, No 10 issued a statement on Monday saying the government would devise an immigration system that gave it more control than a points-based system.
“One of the opportunities of Brexit is that we will be able to control the number of people coming to Britain from the EU. The precise way in which the government will control the movement of EU nationals to Britain after is yet to be determined. However, as the PM has said many times in the past, a points-based system will not work and is not an option,” a No 10 spokeswoman said.
“When Labour introduced a points-based immigration system, the numbers went straight up. In Australia, they have a points-based system and they have higher immigration per capita than Britain. A points-based system would give foreign nationals the right to come to Britain if they meet certain criteria. An immigration system that works for Britain would ensure that the right to decide who comes to the country resides with the government.”
A points-based system applying to migrants from across the world was first suggested by Ukip and quickly championed by the leave campaign, spearheaded by the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.
It would have based on certain criteria, such as skills and qualifications, without giving any special access to those from the EU.
Farage said: “Theresa May’s track record on immigration as home secretary was appalling and her comments rejecting an Australian-style points system really worry me.
“There is already huge anxiety out there in the country regarding Theresa May’s reluctance to trigger article 50. Her rejection of the type of migration system so many went out there and voted leave to see implemented indicates serious backsliding.”
Remain campaigners also seized on May’s comments as a sign that people who voted for Brexit had been misled.
Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP and chair of campaign group Vote Leave Watch, said: “Boris Johnson and his Vote Leave colleagues spent the whole referendum campaign making impossible promises they knew they couldn’t keep. It’s now clear that very few of their pledges were worth the paper they were written on.
“Theresa May cannot be let off the hook either. After barely campaigning for remain, our unelected prime minister now contemptuously dismisses policies such as increasing spending on the NHS which people voted on in good faith and great numbers.”
No 10 sources said May was still of what people voted for by bringing in a system that would be than the Vote Leave and Ukip idea. Theoretically, this could include a work permit or visa system, restrictions on entry to those with job offers, a quota system or an emergency brake.
However, the prime minister has given no details about how this might be done and has not answered the crucial question of whether the government could give preferential access to EU citizens over those from the rest of the world.
The dilemma for May is that a number of EU states have indicated that the UK will not get preferential terms for trading without accepting for EU citizens.
Carlo Calenda, the Italian economic development minister, told Bloomberg: “We cannot waste two years by negotiating with the UK how to maintain them inside without them wanting to be inside. We cannot afford this paradox … The more they are going to regulate and limit the presence of EU citizens in the UK, the more we are going to limit the presence of UK goods into .”
May also stressed that she had not yet set a date for the triggering of article 50, despite calls from prominent Brexit campaigners for an immediate start to talks with the EU about leaving. “What I’ve said on triggering article 50 is that I won’t be triggering it before the end of the year. I haven’t set a date for when it is going to be triggered,” she told the press conference.
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