Points-Based System Review: Will It Reduce Net Migration?

During last weeks’ blog post, we looked at the proposed plans for if the country was to opt for a Brexit. If the Vote Leave campaigners were to achieve their aim, they have made suggestions that they would like to enforce a points-based immigration system as explained previously. This week however, we take a look at the opposing opinion as various expert opinions have emerged highlighting just why their aim offers no assurances for the country.

For an Australian style system or any other points based policy to be introduced to control EU migration, experts claim that it will not give any guarantees that net migration to the country will see a decrease to ‘tens of thousands’.

OUMO (Oxford University’s Migration Observatory) pointed out that certain policies promoted by Leave campaigners, for example the more liberal policies towards non EU migration, could in fact cause a rise in overall migration to the UK.

The Migration Observatory’s Director, Madeleine Sumption, in a review of proposed Brexit immigration policy said the question of the UK embracing a points-based system was a smokescreen in the referendum debate. Sumption stated, ‘The important question is whether the UK leaves the single market and introduces restrictions on EU migration.’

She went on to say ‘If it does, designing a new immigration system will be a hugely complex task. A points-based system would be one of several options, but it would be a surprising choice in some respects. After all, an ‘Australian-style’ points system was introduced under Labour and closed by the Conservatives because of their concerns that it was not well suited to the UK’s needs or their goal of reducing net migration.’

The migration observatory analysis stressed that the true extent of the restrictions on the EU migration should not be overstated or falsified just to align with the Government’s aims of reducing net migration from ‘tens of thousands’.

Their review points out that the EU net migration figures to the UK for 2015, stands at 188,000, with non EU net migration standing at 184,000, meaning ‘net migration would not have been below 100,000 even if net EU migration was zero – unlikely even in a Brexit scenario.’

Decreasing net migration to Britain, to ‘tens of thousands would’ become even more unlikely event if looser policies were implemented on non EU migration. It is believed that if less restrictive measures were enforced it would counterbalance the impact and purpose of trying to cut numbers from Europe – this relates to migration from countries such as India as some of the post Brexit policy supporters have implied would increase. ‘In other words, it is correct that EU migration has contributed to recent high levels of net migration and that new restrictions on EU citizens could reduce overall flows. However, it is important not to overstate the impact of any new such restrictions. On their own and under current economic circumstances, they would not be adequate to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands.’

Experts believe that the one step that could decrease both non EU and EU migration in the mid term, would be if Britain’s economy stalled and under performed relative to migrant’s country of origin. They concluded that there is an evident lack of certainty in regards to what the immigration policy would look like outside of the EU, ‘What is clear is that if free movement came to an end, the task of designing a new immigration system would be hugely complex… Fundamental questions such as whether and how to satisfy demand for migrant labour in low- and middle-skilled jobs, as well as how to manage trade-offs between the costs and benefits of different types of migration, would need to be resolved.’

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