Annual net migration could slash by 100,000 with a Brexit, claims new report

Passport and an EU flagGETTY

Annual net migration could be slashed by more than 100,000 if the UK quits the EU

Research by the pressure group Migration Watch suggested that ending the country’s commitment to Brussels freedom of movement rules would reduce the annual influx from other EU nations to around a fifth of the current level.

The report estimated that imposing work permits on would-be migrants from the EU would lead to net migration from the bloc – the difference between the numbers of people arriving and leaving – fall from its current level of 180,000 a year to around 65,000.

The research was being seen last night as another blow to supporters of Britain’s EU membership ahead of the in-or-out referendum expected later this year.

Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of Migration Watch, 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.”

The Migration Watch report challenged claims from pro-EU campaigners that quitting the bloc would not affect net migration levels in the UK.

The UK border sign at Gatwick airportGETTY

The news comes as another boost to the Brexit campaign

Net EU migration now amounts to 180,000 a year

Lord Green of Deddington, Migration Watch

It noted that Britain would also have to quit the European Economic Area trade zone to escape the free-movement rules that come with membership of the European Single Market.

“A British exit from both the EU and the EEA would allow the UK to negotiate a new settlement,” the Migration Watch study said.

It suggested that the key change would be the introduction of work permits for newcomers from the EU similar to those currently required for new arrivals from outside Europe.

The 16-page research paper claimed that, on average, only around 20% of EU migrants who came to Britain between 2004 and 2014 were doing higher skilled work.

“This could substantially reduce the EU inflow for work to perhaps one fifth of its recent level and would, in turn, substantially reduce net migration by perhaps 100,000 a year from the current level of 180,000,” the report said.

Migration Watch proposed extending Tiers 1 and 2 of the current visa regime for non-European migrants to EU citizens. These set out criteria that investors, entrepreneurs and skilled workers must meet to come to the UK.

Immigration enforcement officerGETTY

The stats came from research conducted by pressure group Migration Watch

The authors concluded that there would be no need for restrictions on EU citizens coming to the UK as students or tourists.

Those who are “self-sufficient” would also be free to live in Britain, including those who are looking for jobs.

Under the suggested system there would also be no restriction on EU family members of British citizens coming to join them, while relatives of European skilled workers and students would have the right to live and work in the UK.

Those EU citizens already living and working in the UK would retain their existing rights, the report added.

Migration Watch, which campaigns for tighter immigration restrictions, said its estimate of future EU net migration of “in the order of” 65,000 should not be taken as a “precise estimate” but is “intended to illustrate the scale of the potential reduction under the policy outlined.”

Home Office Border AgencyGETTY

Europhiles claim the EU Out campaigns are ‘fudging figures’

The Government’s record on immigration has come under intense scrutiny, with overall net migration reaching a record annual level of 336,000 in the latest statistics.

It is likely to be a major talking point in the lead-up to the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

Steven Woolfe, Ukip’s migration spokesman last night welcomed the report, saying: “Migration Watch is right. Net migration would definitely fall if we left the EU, although we would also need a government committed to reducing immigration.

“Controlling immigration means having a policy that would only admit people who met the requirements needed to helping this country become a 21st Century power house.” But pro-Brussels campaigners rejected Migration Watch’s conclusions.

James McGrory, a spokesman for the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign group, said: “This disingenuous report is another example of the ‘leave’ campaigns fudging the facts because they know they’re losing the argument.

“Freedom of movement isn’t on the ballot paper – and neither Leave campaign even proposes ending it. As Norway, Switzerland and Iceland all show, access to the single market comes hand in hand with freedom of movement.

“To suggest we can simply pick and choose which bits of Europe we like after voting to leave is a dishonest fantasy. Right now, Britain has the best of both worlds.

“We have an opt-out from the passport-free Schengen area, while still enjoying full access to the single market. “The Leave campaigns haven’t produced a shred of evidence to show how they could guarantee a deal that is at least as good if we left.”

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