Priti Patel is MP for Witham, and a former Secretary of State for International Development.
From the end of 2020, when Britain withdraws fully from the European Union, we will finally be able to set our immigration policy according to our own national interests.
Regaining control of our borders and immigration policy was a crucial factor in the the referendum, and the British public called for change.
For many who voted remain, immigration policy was also a concern, which is why David Cameron sought to renegotiate the EU’s immigration rules.
As a country, we recognise the immense benefits that migration has brought to our economy and society. As the daughter of a migrant, I know the sanctuary, welcome and opportunities that Britain provides. Regaining control of our borders does not mean slamming the door shut and as we approach the final year of our membership if the EU, Britain can show leadership by mapping out a positive future for our immigration system.
Britain must always be fair, and give refuge to refugees from conflicts and humanitarian crises. We have always had a strong record in this area, and this is the ultimate test of our civility and our humanity as a nation.
In our new report about a post-Brexit migration policy, Iain Duncan Smith and I argue that, after regaining control of our borders, we should have an immigration system that genuinely supports our economic needs, with numbers at a level that supports economic and investment in our public services.
Such a system should be the central objective of a post-Brexit migration policy, and the paper explores a way to reduce migration pressures on jobs and wages whilst at the same time reducing the pace of population growth to sustainable levels.
This way we can control the numbers looking to settle here for economic reasons and ensure that skills shortages in the UK labour market are filled. Such a scheme should cover the EU and the rest of the world because, as the Government repeatedly states, global Britain looks beyond our near neighbours.
The next century will be the global century. The countries that succeed will be those that are nimble, and able to use their human capital to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Those businesses in Britain that invest in skills, training and salaries are growing our future domestic skills supply.
Flexibility would also be brought into this new system so that occupations and key services that experience shortages, such as in the agricultural and healthcare sectors, can recruit quickly from overseas, and we would expect economic migrants to have a job waiting for them upon arrival. A cap and visa system that accommodates our economic needs would help restore public confidence in immigration policy.
Reforms to welfare entitlements must also go alongside this system. We must finally put an end to people being able to come into Britain with no job or on low wages that require significant levels of benefits to support their living costs. Billions of pounds could be saved and reinvested into frontline services, instead of on handouts to recent migrants.
Post-Brexit and after the transition period, we must recognise that some form of free movement should remain in place for particular activities. For example, we would not want to place visa requirements on tourists who want to visit Britain or onerous requirements on students looking to study here for a fixed period before returning. Likewise people from the EU who are self-sufficient, and thus not competing for jobs, and entrepreneurs wanting to set up businesses and create jobs should be able to benefit from a presumption in favour of being able to come to the UK as well.
In post-Brexit, global Britain we want an immigration that helps us attract the brightest and the best from across the world.
The recent debates about our future immigration system have been dominated by the arguments relating to the rights of EU nationals already in the UK. The Prime Minister has been clear about those being protected, and those who have been casting doubt on this have been scaremongering and doing a disservice to our country.
We now need to move the debate forward and decide how we have an immigration system that works for our country when we regain control.