Harping on the sensitive issue of immigration, the ‘Leave EU’ campaign on Wednesday promised to introduce for EU citizens the same points-based system and restrictions that currently apply to Indian and other non-EU citizens while applying to move to UK.
As of now, EU citizens can move to Britain under the ‘free movement’ principle, which means they are not required to demonstrate knowledge of English or have a job offer, which is mandatory for Indians and other non-EU citizens.
There have been instances of problems in the National Health Service due to some EU doctors’ poor English skills. Under the points-based system, which is also used in Australia, potential migrants need a minimum total of points on the basis of age, education and job as part of their visa application.
Leading lights of the Vote Leave camp – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel – said in a statement that introducing the same requirements as non-EU citizens for EU citizens would remove “discrimination” and ensure better control of immigration if Britons vote to leave the EU in the June 23 referendum.
They said: “By the next general election, we will create a genuine Australian-style points based immigration system. The automatic right of all EU citizens to come to live and work in the UK will end, as will EU control over vital aspects of our social security system”.
“EU citizens will be subject to legislation made by those we elect in Westminster, not in Brussels. We could then create fairness between EU citizens and others, including those from Commonwealth countries”.
The ‘Remain in EU’ camp, however, said the points-based system would “wreck” Britain’s economy and increase immigration. New opinion polls suggested that the Vote Leave camp’s focus on immigration was going down well and driving its ratings.
The Vote Leave statement said: “Those seeking entry for work or study should be admitted on the basis of their skills without discrimination on the ground of nationality. To gain the right to work, economic migrants will have to be suitable for the job in question”.
“For relevant jobs, we will be able to ensure that all those who come have the ability to speak good English. Such a system can be much less bureaucratic and much simpler than the existing system for non-EU citizens,” it added.
The three leaders said new citizens who wished to contribute to British society would be welcomed, adding that adopting the new system will enable Britain to "remove those who abuse our hospitality".