Would-be PM favours Australian immigration controls

Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May next month, has pledged to press for an immigration system modelled on Australia's points-based system if he makes it into Downing Street.

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While Mr Johnson said the UK needed to be more open to highly skilled workers once the country had left the European Union, he said a new system needed to restore the public's faith in the immigration system and be "tougher on those who abuse our hospitality".

Adopting a points-based system 

Mr Johnson’s aides emphasised that his plan would not mean that the current government's immigration proposals, outlined in a white paper in December, would be abandoned but, rather, that the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) would be instructed to investigate the possibility of assessing skills on a points-based system.The former foreign secretary said he would ask the MAC to consider requiring migrants to obtain a firm job offer before arrival and to possess an ability to speak English. He also said he wanted the committee to look at powers to block migrants' ability to claim benefits immediately after arrival.In fact, a form of a points-based system has operated in the UK for more than a decade and is used for assessing would-be migrants coming from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland.But Mr Johnson said he wanted to learn from Australia, whose points-based system he described as a simple one based on contribution, fairness and control."We will restore democratic control of immigration policy after we leave the EU," he said in an echo of the calls made by many 'leave' campaigners in the run-up to the Brexit referendum.

System needs to be open to high-skilled immigrants 

"We must be much more open to high-skilled immigration such as scientists, but we must also assure the public that, as we leave the EU, we have control over the number of unskilled immigrants coming into the country."We must be tougher on those who abuse our hospitality. Other countries such as Australia have great systems and we should learn from them."Not everyone, however, was impressed by Mr Johnson's stance. Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of the business group London First, said a move to a reliance on points would be a "bureaucratic nightmare and won't deliver the skills the economy needs to grow". Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, added, “The term ‘Australian points-based system’ gets thrown around in the UK debate quite a lot.“Some aspects of the UK’s immigration rules for non-EU workers are already quite similar to what they do in Australia — for example, employers can sponsor foreign workers to come to the country for skilled jobs.“Other aspects are different — for example, Australia’s immigration system has more regional devolution, gives some migrants a faster route to permanent residence, and is more open to international students who want to stay on to work.” 

Rights of three million EU nationals already in the UK to be protected 

Mr Johnson also promised to protect the post-Brexit rights of the three million-plus EU27 nationals living and working in the UK. "This should have happened straight after the referendum," he said."I will sort it out immediately and make sure that this issue is properly dealt with and millions of people can stop worrying."Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory