Brexit Migration Cap Gets Backing of Former U.K. Tory Ministers

  • Pressure group urges introduction of system of working visas
  • Visa applicants would have to have private health insurance

Prominent U.K. Conservatives backed a call to cap annual net migration at 50,000 once Britain leaves the European Union, underlining the pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to satisfy the euro-skeptic wing of her party by restricting the influx of foreign workers in any Brexit deal.

A report by the Leave Means Leave pressure group published Sunday called for the introduction of a system of working visas with targets on numbers arriving in the U.K. and a five-year freeze on unskilled immigration. Former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and ex-Defence Minister Gerald Howarth declared their support for the plan.

Owen Paterson

Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

“We have to do more to address the uncontrolled inflow of unskilled labor and –- in doing so –- win back the trust of the British people,” Paterson said in an emailed statement. “It is perfectly possible to have a system that works for business, but returns us to the net migration levels of the mid-1990s.”

Recent comments by May suggest she may accept temporary continued freedom of movement for EU workers to the U.K. as part of any transitional arrangements with the bloc after March 2019.

“Once we’ve got the deal, once we’ve agreed what the new relationship will be for the future, it will be necessary for there to be a period of time when businesses and governments are adjusting systems and so forth,” the premier told reporters during a trip to the Middle East last week.

The Leave Means Leave report, written by the U.K. Independence Party’s former migration spokesman, Steven Woolfe, suggests a working visa should only be granted if the applicant has an offer for a job with a minimum salary of 35,000 pounds ($43,000), private health insurance and “satisfactory” savings.

The pressure group has the backing of a number of other prominent Tory euro-skeptics, including former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont and ex-cabinet members Theresa Villiers, John Whittingdale and Peter Lilley.

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