With only 22 days remaining before Britain votes on whether to stay in the European Union, the Leave campaign unveiled its immigration plan Wednesday. The proposal would end the automatic right for all European Union citizens to come and work in the U.K. by 2020 and would install an Australian-style immigration system, which awards points based on skills and work experience.
“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 U.K. will end, as will EU control over vital aspects of our social security system,” said a statement issued by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, Conservative politician and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove, Minister of State for Employment Priti Patel and Labour politician Gisela Stuart.
While the Leave campaign has promised a “fairer, more humane” immigration system, the Remain campaign says the immigration proposal would “wreck” the British economy, the BBC reported.
The statement from the Leave campaign said the governments would ensure that people admitted to the U.K. would enter based on their skills, not on their nationality. “For relevant jobs, we will be able to ensure that all those who come have the ability to speak good English,” the statement said. The Leave campaign did not say whether the number of migrant workers in the U.K. would drop based on its proposal.
Britain currently uses a points-based immigration system for non-EU nationals, and Leave campaigners want to extend it to Europeans. EU citizens already legally residing in Britain would not be affected by the proposal.
Immigration has become a key issue in the Brexit debate. Of the entire U.K. population in 2014, 13.1 percent were foreign-born and 8.5 percent were non-British citizens, Oxford University’s Migration Observatory reported. More than 850,000 Poles are living and working in the country in both high-skill and low-skill sectors, and the new immigration proposal has raised questions about what could happen to them after 2020.
British voters will cast their ballots in the referendum on June 23.