- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will stop European Union migrants from treating Britain “as their own” if he wins this week’s election.
- Johnson has vowed to introduce a points-based immigration system after Brexit that would award visas based on the perceived skill level of migrants.
- Johnson guaranteed that this system would reduce immigration.
- “You’ve seen quite a large number of people coming in from the whole of the EU – 580 million population – able to treat the UK as though it’s basically part of their own country,” he told Sky News.
- Experts have questioned the proposals, however, and Johnson’s opponents accused him of “demonizing” EU citizens.
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to stop European Union migrants from treating Britain “as their own country” if he wins this week’s general election.
“You’ve seen quite a large number of people coming in from the whole of the EU – 580 million population – able to treat the UK as though it’s basically part of their own country, and the problem with that is there has been no control at all and I don’t think that is democratically accountable,” Johnson told Sky News on Sunday.
He added: “You have got to have a system by which politicians can say to people, ‘Well, yes, we are letting people in, but we are doing it in a way that is controlled and checked.'”
The prime minister has promised to reduce net migration if returned to Downing Street.
To do this, he has said he would introduce a points-based system of the sort used in Australia, under which migrants wishing to come to the UK would be given one of three visas depending on their perceived skill level.
Johnson said migrants with “exceptional talents” would be given the most rights to live and work in the UK. Skilled workers, like those in the National Health Service, would be permitted to move to the UK as long as they had jobs waiting for them. The third group, “unskilled” workers, would be given short-stay visas to work in sectors suffering from shortages.
The Migration Advisory Committee, the independent body that advises ministers on migration policy, would have the power to decide how many migrants each sector needed.
Johnson guaranteed that this system would reduce the number of immigrants after Britain leaves the EU, telling Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “Yes, I can make sure that numbers will come down because we’ll be able to control the system in that way.”
- Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Experts question Johnson’s immigration plans
Experts, however, have questioned Johnson’s proposals and criticized his framing of immigration.
Jonathan Portes, a professor at King’s College London, told the newspaper The Guardian that the proposed system undervalued the skills of migrants and would lead to shortages in certain sectors.
“There’s a damaging misconception in this debate that there’s a binary divide between the brain surgeons and the people who pick strawberries – most ordinary immigrants are somewhere in between,” Portes said. “Doing jobs that require skills but aren’t necessarily highly skilled, and they would not pass this particular test.
“Butchers, for example, or people who work in abattoirs – this is hard work and you need training. Most come from Eastern Europe but are unlikely to make the highly skilled cut.”
The Institute for Government think tank has previously expressed doubt that the UK Home Office, which is responsible for migration, could design and implement new immigration system in time for Brexit.
Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrats’ shadow home secretary, accused Johnson of “demonizing” EU citizens who she said “contribute so much to our NHS, social care, and economy.”
“This dog-whistle politics is straight out of Nigel Farage or Donald Trump’s playbook,” she told Business Insider.
“Conservative plans to end free movement would mean fewer EU nurses and care workers, and fewer opportunities for UK citizens to move abroad.
“Neither Johnson or Corbyn are standing up for free movement and for the millions of EU nationals who are our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Boris, stop Brexit, and build a brighter future for the country.”