Part of a series from the Fresh Start Group on what Leave would look like.
“We have seen many more people from the EU coming to Britain than originally anticipated, principally because our economy has been growing so much more rapidly and creating more jobs than other EU countries. As a result, our action has not been enough to cut annual net migration to the tens of thousands. That ambition remains the right one. But it is clearly going to take more time, more work and more difficult long-term decisions to achieve. Continuing this vital work will be our priority over the next five years.” Conservative Party Manifesto 2015
The rise of numbers and its consequences
Free movement of people from across the EU has brought many economic benefits in the past. However, rising numbers, especially this century, are putting serious pressures on public services, housing and infrastructure. Pressures are also being placed on employment opportunities and wages kept down as migrant workers from Eastern Europe fill lower-paid and lower-skilled work.
Membership of the EU also means that we have lost our ability to take decisions in our interests about immigration. There are no democratic controls or accountability over the scale of immigration from the EU.
This means that the Government’s manifesto pledge to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands to the levels seen in the 1990s is not worth the paper it is written on. EU membership grants 500 million EU nationals free movement into the UK, which we cannot control or prevent, and there’s a further 90 million more to follow when the EU enlarges and brings in new members.
Pressure on services
The number of EU migrants working in the UK has risen from 638,000 in 1997 to 2,210,000 in 2016. This is an increase of nearly 1.6 million or 250 per cent, which is a faster rate of growth than the number of UK national workers and non-EU migrant workers. The total number of EU nationals living in the UK is now over three million, putting pressures on public services. These pressures will be exacerbated by remaining in the EU and when the EU enlarges.
Cuts the UK off from the rest of the world
Uncontrolled immigration from the EU has led to tougher controls on non-EU migration. This has the perverse effect of cutting the UK off from the rest of the world and excluding from Britain people with skills who can contribute positively to our economy.
Holding wages down
EU migrants are filling lower skilled and lower waged jobs. This over-supply of workers holds down wages.
Damaging to the rest of the EU
High levels of migration from Eastern Europe into the UK is causing a ‘brain drain’ in those countries where migrants come from.
The EU’s free movement rules and control over our immigration policies undermines democracy and democratic decision-making in the UK.
The numbers of migrants coming into the UK from the rest of the EU shows no signs of slowing down, and with the introduction of the National Living Wage and the relative strength of the UK economy compared to the rest of the EU, Britain will continue to face these pressures. Although the UK has opted out of the Euro and of Schengen, we cannot escape the consequences of these policies, and the shift in working age population from the south of Europe, which is getting poorer, to northern Europe. Britain within the EU is an attractive country for those looking for a better life to live and work in.
Housing, public services such schools and the NHS, and infrastructure like transport will be hit particularly hard by more migrants coming to the UK under the EU’s free movement rules. The only way to take back control of our borders and introduce a fair and balanced immigration system is to vote to leave the EU.
Following a vote to leave the EU, fundamental reform of the immigration system can take place to make the system fair and balanced and ensure that numbers can be kept down to a sustainable level. An immigration system that has the confidence of the British people will be introduced with immediate, medium and long term measures brought in to deliver it.
After a vote to leave the EU, there would be no immediate change in the status of migrants living in the EU and those British nationals living in other EU member states. Our reforms will affect new migrants coming to the UK not those who are already here, which provides stability and assurances to those who have already exercised free movement rights.
Short-term controls should be introduced to stop an influx of migrants from the EU while the negotiations over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU takes place.
Keeping Britain secure
Short-term checks should be carried out on EU migrants coming in and those with serious criminal records should be excluded from entering the UK. More efforts would be undertaken to deport EU national offenders in UK prisons and those already awaiting deportation.
Medium to long term
Wages to rise
Wages set to increases as a result of labour supply from the EU being more tightly controlled. Lord Stuart Rose has confirmed that this would be a “good thing.”
Protecting our services
Research would be undertaken with public service providers, the NHS, schools, and local authorities to ascertain what sustainable levels of migration would be for the long term.
Supporting our economy
Consultations would take place with businesses, universities, public service providers and other interested parties on the long-term migration trends and skills and labour shortages in the economy.
An immigration system that has the confidence of the people
Once the levels of sustainable migration have been ascertained, then our democratically elected and accountable Government can introduce a new points-based immigration system that facilitates the migration of individuals with the skills our economy needs.
A safer immigration system
Stronger entry and exit checks introduced to know who is entering and leaving the UK.
Providing humanitarian help
Continue to provide humanitarian refuge to those most in need.
These measures would ensure that the UK benefits from a sustainable immigration system. By voting to leave the EU and taking back control of the immigration system, the UK Government would be able to bring the numbers of migrants down to a sustainable and sensible level, manage pressures on housing, public services and infrastructure, and bring in skilled and talented individuals from anywhere in the world. By voting to leave the EU, Britain can have an immigration system that is fit for purpose and has the confidence of the people.