September 6, 2016 by Paul Goldsmith
So the first Brexit battle-line is drawn. Theresa May has ‘ruled-out’ an Australian style points system for immigration as a method of controlling immigration into the UK should we choose to go down the route of ending freedom of movement of workers (thus withdrawing from the single market) when Britain exits the EU.
May points out that if you want to ‘control’ immigration you cannot actually do so under a points system that is used to decide who can come to Britain. This is because should a person meet the criteria they can enter the country, so you cannot actually control numbers.
The problem is that during the EU referendum the Leave campaign seemed to have promised a points-based system. They also of course promised a cut in VAT on fuel and of course that £350m would be spent on the NHS once the EU budget contributions stopped. They have rowed back from the latter two but the first promise appears to be a red line.
Which is why Nigel Farage has commented, in response to May, that “the people were clear in wanting a points-based immigration system which is why so many went out and voted to leave the European Union,” he said.”Any watering down from that will lead to real anger.”
Actually, the people were not clear on what they wanted. The people voted to instruct the Government to leave the European Union. That’s it. That’s the only thing that was clear, or as clear as 52% of an electorate voting for something can be. They were NOT clear on anything else. Many people voted Leave for sovereignty and democracy reasons. Nothing to do with immigration.
All this goes to show why the design of this referendum has been so flawed. Given a referendum is supposed to help people consent to how they want to be governed, the EU referendum has only said how they DONT want to be governed. There may need to be another referendum in which that consent is given, possibly a choice between single market and no control on immigration or no single market and control of immigration, between open and closed.
The thing about Theresa May is that she will patiently look at evidence and decide what she believes to be in the best interests of the country. That is what one should expect a Prime Minister to do.