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Osborne brands Brexit camp's points-based immigration pledge 'fantasy politics'

Published 01/06/2016

George Osborne has branded Brexit campaigners' promise of a points-based immigration system unworkable and claimed it will increase the number of migrants coming to Britain.

The Chancellor dismissed the Australian-inspired idea as "fantasy politics" next to the "reality check" of an OECD report which warns of a "grim" economic future if Britain leaves the EU.

Mr Osborne also defended David Cameron's renegotiated deal with the EU which means the Government will be able to apply a four year "emergency brake" on in-work benefits for migrants.

He spoke after leading Leave campaigners including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove set out the blueprint for an immigration system which would spell the end of the automatic right of EU citizens to come to live and work in the UK.

Instead, the right to come to the UK would be based on skills.

On a visit to a logistics firm in Harlow, Essex, the Chancellor said: "The Prime Minister has secured a deal that ends the something for nothing culture.

"But what a contrast today between the Leave campaign with their fantasy politics, unworkable proposals that will increase immigration, take us out of the single market and cost us jobs, and the reality check in the real world of the highly respected OECD which points out the grim economic future for the UK outside the EU.

"It says the threat of leaving the EU is already slowing the British economy and that the hit to people's living standards will be strongly negative if we do vote to Leave."

Immigration has been at the centre of the referendum campaign to date and is an issue on which Leave campaigners believe they have the advantage.

Mr Gove and Mr Johnson, alongside Tory minister Priti Patel and Labour Brexiteer Gisela Stuart, promised to create a "genuine Australian-style points-based immigration system" by the 2020 general election if voters back Brexit.

It would end the automatic right of EU citizens to live and work in the UK, with immigration instead based on skills and qualifications without discrimination on grounds of nationality.

The Brexiteers also claimed some 77,000 jobseekers came to the UK from the EU last year under free movement rules, despite it being Government policy that people coming from Europe should have a job offer in place first.

They repeated their attack on the Prime Minister for promising to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, again saying it was "corrosive of public trust".

Remain campaigners have however pointed out that Australia has more immigrants per head than Britain and highlighted experts' claims that the plan would not have the desired effect.

Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned that leaving the EU would cause a "substantial" hit to the British and global economy while sparking turmoil in world stock markets.

The independent organisation slashed its forecast for UK growth this year to 1.7%, down from 2.2% predicted in February, as it said Brexit fears have already "undermined" growth.

In its latest economic outlook forecast, it said: "A decision to exit would result in considerable additional volatility in financial markets and an extended period of uncertainty about future policy developments, with substantial negative consequences for the United Kingdom, the European Union and the rest of the world."

Ms Stuart dismissed Mr Osborne's comments and warned that EU immigration to Britain could increase further as new countries join the union.

The Vote Leave chair said: "The real fantasy politics is George Osborne's commitment to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands while at the same time campaigning to remain in the EU.

"The reality for the British people if we stay in is that Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey - with a combined population of 88 million - will all soon join the EU. When they do, EU migration to the UK could increase by five million.

"David Cameron's renegotiation was another flight of fantasy which has achieved nothing.

"The only way to get real change - to take back control of our borders, introduce a points-based non-discriminatory immigration system and achieve an immigration rate that has the consent of the public is to Vote Leave on 23 June."

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