Richard North, 01/06/2016  

In the light of Vote Leave's suicide note on immigration, we're putting up this open thread for the day, which I'll convert into a post this evening.

A point to take on board is that this proposal completely and irrevocably rules out any deal on Single Market participation, and thus excludes the Efta/EEA (Norway) option. Therefore, Vote Leave wants to commit us to a second-tier relationship which, in the short- to medium-term would involve significant economic perturbation.

Another crucial point is that the Australian so-called "points" system is not well named. It is in fact a hybrid quota system. The points get you on the waiting list, but the overall limit is determined by an annual quota. In between is an expensive, cumbersome, bureaucratic system that has central government deciding on access to labour for a large number of companies.

Thirdly, the UK is not Australia. It is only 20 miles from France with a multiplicity of entry points and a long tradition of visa-free entry (since the War, from 1946 on onwards). We have 32 million visitors to the UK each year, as opposed to the seven million or so in Australia – a flow which makes a huge economic contribution.

Experience worldwide shows that where artificial restrictions on entry are imposed, illegal immigration increases exponentially. One set of problems is thereby exchanged for another. Crime rates increase as does the black economic which, of course, does not pay its taxes.

Overall, the Australian system doesn't even work very well for Australia. In a far more complex economy such as the UK, with its entirely different geography and neighbourhood relationships, it is totally inappropriate. Applying it to the UK when Ukip thought of it was a stupid idea. With the outcome of a referendum resting on it, it is insane.

As to Flexcit, there are some who run away with the idea that accepting continued free movement means abandoning any control over immigration. This could not be further from the truth – see Chapters 7 & 8. There are many things we can do, right down to applying unilaterally an "emergency brake" on immigration. 

To secure an exit from the EU and – as much to the point – to win the referendum, we are going to have to compromise. Insisting on a doctrinaire approach to immigration might play well to the faithful, but it has a mixed impact on the "undecideds". In what at best is a very tight contest, the wrong move could cost us the referendum. This may just be the move that has that effect.

More later, as the debate evolves.

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