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Theresa May rejects points-based immigration system hailed by Brexit supporters

Published 05/09/2016

Prime Minister Theresa May, pictured with Chancellor Philip Hammond, has dismissed the idea of an Australian-style points-based immigration policy
Prime Minister Theresa May, pictured with Chancellor Philip Hammond, has dismissed the idea of an Australian-style points-based immigration policy

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out th e points-based immigration policy championed by Brexit campaigners, saying it was "not a silver bullet" to reduce the numbers coming to the UK.

Mrs May was accused of backsliding on immigration by outgoing Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who said that "watering down" the system backed by the Leave side in the EU referendum would lead to real anger.

But Mrs May insisted that the Australian system would not succeed in giving Britain control back over its borders.

She told a press conference at the G20 summit in China: "What the British people voted for on June 23 was to bring some control into the movement of people from the European Union to the UK.

"A points-based system does not give you that control."

Mrs May said that as Home Secretary she was told by immigration officers that the most important thing the Government should focus on was students who had met the criteria to come to the UK but did not appear to be heading for a genuine course.

"Because they met the criteria, they were automatically allowed in," she said.

"That's the problem with a points-based system.

"I want a system where the Government is able to decide who comes into the country. I think that's what the British people want.

"A points-based system means that people come in automatically if they just meet the criteria."

Mrs May said there were "various ways" for the Government to assert control over migration into the UK.

"We will be coming forward in due course with proposals," she said.

Mrs May indicated that her drive to regain control over immigration would be balanced with the desire to get "the best deal possible" on trade for the UK in negotiations with other EU states.

She said: "What we will be doing is working for the best deal for the United Kingdom.

"Yes, the voters' message on June 23 was clearly that they didn't want to see free movement continuing as it has done up to now. They wanted some control in movement of people from the EU into the United Kingdom.

"But we also want to get the best deal possible for trade in goods and services with the EU, and I intend to go out there and be ambitious.

"I think there is a benefit not just for the UK of a good deal in trade in goods and services, but a benefit for Europe as well."

In a sign of Italy's concerns about Brexit, the country's economic development minister Carlo Calenda warned that measures to curb free movement would be met with trade barriers from Brussels.

"The more they are going to regulate and limit the presence of EU citizens in the UK, the more we are going to limit the presence of UK goods into Europe," Carlo Calenda told Bloomberg Television.

"There should be a balance there. You cannot be here in the single market but at the same time excluding some part of the European relationship which is very important."

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