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New points-based UK immigration system uncertain

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UK immigration minister, James Brokenshire, has dismissed promises made by Brexit backers during the recent referendum that the UK's new immigration system will be modelled on Australia's points-based system. In an address to MPs, he labelled the promises made by Vote Leave as 'premature.'

Brokenshire, who is considered a close aide of newly installed Prime Minister, Theresa May, recently announced that the process of evaluating options for Britain's new immigration system had already begun in the Home Office. It's understood that the new immigration system will look to stem the flow of migrants arriving in the UK from the European Union (EU).

Speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, 12 July, Brokenshire explained how a series of talks with the Irish government in recent weeks had led to an agreement over preserving the joint common travel area between the UK and Ireland, which has existed since 1922, once Britain exits the EU.

Sanwar Ali, Editor of News has the following comments to make:

Both sides in the EU Referendum campaign made misleading and false statements. Claiming that Brexit will lead to an "Australian style" points based immigration system is a bit of a strange thing to say anyway. Britain has had a points based immigration system for non-EU migrants since February 2008. This was introduced by a Labour Government.

It also seems to be unjust and unfair that the British Government has not confirmed that EU citizens already in the UK can stay. I think that this will happen anyway. However, the honourable decent thing to do would be to tell EU citizens that they can stay now.

There have been a number of cases where the Home Office seems to have made false statements so as to make sure that certain immigrants (many highly qualified and highly skilled immigrants!) cannot stay in the UK and so that certain companies cannot sponsor overseas workers on tier 2 visas. President Erdogan of Turkey has been criticised for human rights abuses and for a "media crackdown". We have evidence of human rights abuses by an organisation sponsored by the Home Office and interference in the media. While what has happened in the UK is not as serious as what has happened in Turkey it is still outrageous and shocking and should not be tolerated.

Brokenshire advises MPs on immigration policy towards current EU Immigrants

Referring to reports in the press Brokenshire provided further details of UK immigration policy towards EU Citizens currently in the UK.

In a statement to MPs, Brokenshire said: "The government will not unilaterally guarantee the future position, post-Brexit of the estimated 2.9 million EU nationals currently lawfully resident in Britain until the position of UK citizens in EU countries is also secured."

However, Brokenshire did move to reassure EU citizens who have been residents in Britain on a long-term basis that the chances of them being removed from the UK, especially if they have been here for five years or more, is unlikely. Under current EU laws, nationals of EU member states are entitled to remain in the UK permanently if they've been a resident for five years.

Brokenshire said: "Having established that right, I think, as a matter of law, it would be virtually impossible ... to then take that away from them."

International immigration group

Mr Brokenshire confirmed that a Home Office 'international immigration group' has already been established to commence work on planning a new UK immigration system for the post-Brexit era. The group is understood to be passing information to the Cabinet Office's central co-ordination Brexit unit, headed by Olly Robbins a high ranking civil servant.

It's understood that UK Visas and Immigration are also analysing the potential operational impact of numerous possibilities despite the Home Office, along with Whitehall, failing to put a contingency plan in place prior to the referendum result.

Brokenshire said: "The Home Office work is to look at the various different options." Commenting on UKIP's immigration policy, which called for an Australian-style points based system and was backed by Michael Gove and new foreign secretary, Boris Johnson during the referendum campaign, Brokenshire said: "It is not necessarily that the points-based system is the right way to do it. There are other arrangements that could be considered as well."

Australian points-based system

Approximately 15% of Australian work visas are issued to incoming migrants based on their skillset and Brokenshire's decision to distance Theresa May's government from the Vote Leave pledge to follow Australia's example, highlights that the new Prime Minister and her government will not be bound by specific pledges made by Brexit backers.

Brokenshire said that he couldn't go into the specifics of the options on the table in advance of any negotiations with the EU because he wants to ensure that Britain gets the best possible deal from its EU exit. However, he stated that free movement between Britain and the Republic of Ireland will remain as it has done since 1922.

He said: "Both the Irish and UK governments have agreed their joint desire to preserve the common travel area, even though the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland will now become an external EU frontier."

According to Brokenshire, because Britain's arrangement with the Republic of Ireland stretches back prior to the UK becoming a member of the EU in 1973, there would be 'no impact on the security of the Schengen area.' Brokenshire was adamant that the passport-free zone between the remaining 26 EU member nations would remain intact, despite the European Commission not giving any indication of its views on the issue.