A pressure group has claimed leaving the European Union could reduce net migration to the UK by 100,000 a year.
Migration Watch UK claimed its research gave a realistic forecast of post-“Brexit” immigration but pro-EU campaigners slammed the report as a “disingenuous” take on “fudged facts”.
Its analysis estimated that expected changes including tighter restrictions on people coming to the UK for work could see net migration from the bloc - the difference between the numbers of people arriving and leaving - fall from its current level of 180,000 a year to around 65,000.
Lord Green of Deddington, the chairman of Migration Watch UK, said “alternative immigration regimes” should be examined.
“Under the current arrangements all the signs are that EU migration to Britain will continue at a substantial rate for the foreseeable future; indeed, immigrants tend to generate further migration as their friends and relatives join them in their new countries,” he added.
“Work permits for EU citizens would substantially reduce net migration and its resultant pressure on our population and public services.”
His group’s report suggested the key change if Britain votes to leave the union should be the introduction of permits which would only allow in EU workers in higher-skilled occupations, in a similar scheme to that currently governing arrivals from outside Europe.
The 16-page paper said that on average, only around 20 per cent of EU migrants who came to Britain between 2004 and 2014 were doing higher skilled work.
Claiming the argument that a Brexit would not affect migration relied on remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA), Migration Watch UK argued the country could exit both unions in favour of a “new settlement”.
The authors concluded that there would be no need for restrictions on EU students or tourists, and that “self-sufficient” migrants would also be free to live in Britain.
European family members would also be allowed to join British citizens in the UK, as would relatives of “skilled” EU workers.
Migration Watch UK admitted that its prediction of future EU net migration of 65,000 should not be taken as a “precise estimate” but was “intended to illustrate the scale of the potential reduction under the policy outlined”.
The Government's record on immigration has come under intense scrutiny in the run-up to next year’s referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, with overall net migration reaching a record annual level of 336,000 in the latest statistics.
Lord Rose, chairman of “stay” campaigners Britain Stronger in Europe, previously said immigration ”isn't going to go away” if the country leaves.
James McGrory, a spokesperson for the group, dismissed Migration Watch UK’s latest report as a “disingenuous…example of the Leave campaigns fudging the facts because they know they're losing the argument”.
"Freedom of movement isn't on the ballot paper - and neither Leave campaign even proposes ending it,” he added.
"Right now, Britain has the best of both worlds. We have an opt-out from the passport-free Schengen area, while still enjoying full access to the single market.
"The Leave campaigns haven't produced a shred of evidence to show how they could guarantee a deal that is at least as good if we left"
Migration Watch UK said its report does not advocate exiting from or remaining in the EU, but the group has become associated with an anti-immigration stance because of its numerous negative reports with headlines including “Immigration is driving Londoners out of their capital” and “Immigrants have cost the tax payer over £140 billion since 1995”.
University College London researchers whose statistics were previously used to argue that “immigrants cost Britain £3,000 a year each” criticised Migration Watch UK’s “sloppy or simply wrong” conclusions based on “serious misinterpretation” of the original research.
10 things immigration has done for Britain
10 things immigration has done for Britain
1/10 The Mini
The 1959 classic, that is, perhaps our greatest piece of industrial design, a miracle of packaging and revolution in motoring. Its genius designer was Sir Alec Issigonis, who was an asylum seeker. His family, Greek, fled Smyrna when Turks invaded this borderland in around 1920, and he wound up studying engineering at Battersea Polytechnic. He went on to create that most English of motor cars, the Morris Minor, as well as the Austin-Morris 1100, all much loved products of his fertile imagination.
2/10 Marks and Spencer
Once upon a time there was no M&S in Britain, difficult as that may be to believe. We have one Michael Marks to thank for our most famous retailer, and he was a refugee from Belarus, arriving in England in about 1882, and soon after set off to flog stuff around Yorkshire. He eventually teamed with Thomas Spencer to create the vast business we know today.
And many other TV shows created, funded and otherwise produced by that largest of larger-than-life characters, Lew Grade (also a world class tap dancer). The man who dominated commercial television gave us memorable entertainment such as The Prisoner, the Saint and brought the Muppets to Britain (a sort of fuzzy felt wave of immigration), as well as puppet shows where you could see the strings. All this from a penniless Jew from Ukraine, born Lev Winogradsky, who escaped the pogroms in Ukraine with his family in the 1890s. His nephew Michael Grade has also done his bit for British television.
4/10 The House of Windsor
Or the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until George V prudently rebranded the family during the First World War. Well, our royals are a pretty German bunch, as well as having various types of French and other alien blue blood coursing around their veins. ‘Twas ever thus. There was William the Conqueror, Norman French, who certainly broke the immigration rules; William of Orange, a direct import from Holland; the Hanoverian King Georges, the first barely able to speak English; Queen Victoria, who married a German, Edward VII, who couldn’t stay faithful to his wife, a Danish princess; George V wed another German princess; Edward VIII married an American (though she hardly visited England and prompted his emigration and exile); and the Queen is married to man born in Corfu. The embodiment of the British nation, to many, but one thinks of them as quite multicultural really.
5/10 I Vow To Thee My Country
Our most patriotic hymn was the product of a man named Gustav Holst (pictured), born in Cheltenham, but of varied Swedish, Latvian and German ancestry, who adapted part of his suite The Planets to put a particularly stirring and beautiful poem to music, just after the Great War. As the second verse has it, “there's another country/I've heard of long ago/Most dear to them that love her/most great to them that know”. Imagine if the Holst family had been kept out because the quota on musical European types had been reached.
6/10 Curry and Cobra
Chicken Tikka Masala is, so they say, a dish which not only the most popular in Britain but specifically designed to cater for European tastes. For that we probably have to thank an Indian migrant, Sake Dean Mahomed, who came from Bengal to open the first recognisable Indian restaurant, the magnificently named “Hindoostanee Coffee House”. History does not record if a plate of poppadoms and accompanying selection of pickles and yoghurts were routinely placed on the table for new diners, but we do know that we had to wait until 1989 to taste the ideal lager for a curry - Cobra. That brew was brought to us by Karan (now Lord) Bilimoria, a Cambridge law graduate who hailed from Hyderabad.
7/10 That big red swirly sculpture at the Olympic Park
Or Orbit, to give it its proper name, the work of Anish Kapoor, who arrived in 1973 from India and had the artistic imagination to fill a power station.
8/10 The Sun
Love it or hate it, and many do both, this has been a symbol of much that is successful and a lot that is awful in British journalism since its inception in 1969. In its turn it spawned the Page 3 Girl and some nastily xenophobic headlines. All the stranger when you consider its creator was, of course, Rupert Murdoch, born 11 March 1931 in Melbourne, Australia.
OK, Karl Marx’s philosophy was not much of a gift to the world, but for a while it seemed like a good idea. Though we might not dare admit it, Marxism still has a few insights to offer to anyone wanting to understand the workings of capitalism, though too few to excuse everything that was done in its name. Born in Germany spent much time in the British museum and the British pub, buried Highgate Cemetery. Oddly, his ideas never really caught on in his adopted homeland.
10/10 The NHS
They came from many, many backgrounds, including Ireland, the Philippines, east Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa, as they still do, but the contribution of the black nurses who came to the UK from the Caribbean to heal and care for is a debt of honour that must be recognised. It so sometimes forgotten that it was Enoch Powell, then Minister of Health (1960-62), who campaigned to recruit their skilled nurses to come and work over here. One abiding legacy we can thank Enoch for.
Danny Shaw, the BBC’s home affairs correspondent, was among those poking holes in its latest report today.
“No-one knows for sure what impact a British exit from the EU would have on immigration,” he pointed out.
“But say, as Migration Watch advocates, that it did herald controls on the flow of low-skilled EU migrant labour, would that really work in reducing net migration?
“Wouldn't there be an influx of migrants from the EU before the restrictions came into force?”
“Wouldn't businesses that currently rely on labourers, chambermaids and supermarket shelf-stackers from Europe demand that they be allowed to recruit them from elsewhere?”
“And wouldn't the EU introduce work permits for British workers, thereby reducing emigration from the UK?”
Additional reporting by PA