DAVID CAMERON must adopt an Australian-style points system for immigrants if he wants to persuade voters that the government has a hope of limiting new arrivals, a former cabinet minister will warn this week.
Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, will use a speech to the Reform think tank tomorrow to demand tougher action to curb migration from outside the European Union.
He will call for an “open and shut” policy, which would leave the UK open to the skilled migrants demanded by business but closed to those who risk becoming dependent on the state.
In a challenge to the prime minister, Fox will criticise the way ministers have allowed the immigration debate to become focused on EU migration — to the benefit of UKIP.
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Fox will say that despite the furore about the 525,000 immigrants who came to Britain from the EU between 2005 and 2010, including 304,000 from Poland and other eastern European countries, they were outnumbered by the 1.2m migrants from outside the EU over the same period.
Non-EU migrants still account for more than half of net migration.
Ministers have cut non-EU migration in half since the election but Fox said Cameron should go further to boost his chances of cutting annual net migration to the tens of thousands. Net migration is running at more than 200,000 a year.
“Whatever the future holds for Britain’s relationship with the EU, we still have a large degree of control over our borders and it is up to us to decide who we can let in and who we would prefer not to,” Fox will say.
“There is no reason why the UK should not adopt a strict points system, along the Australian model, to deal with the two thirds of our immigration that comes from outside the EU.
“It has the merits of clarity and transparency and, I believe, would be seen as fair and reasonable by the British people.”
He will add: “What I am proposing is an open and shut policy: more open to those who have the skills that we will need to maintain our prosperity and place in the world and more closed to those who, for whatever reason, would end up placing a burden on our welfare system and national infrastructure.”
Fox will also call on Cameron to make EU migration a centrepiece of his campaign to strike a new deal with Brussels: “How we deal with the whole issue of European migration, the free movement of people and its relation to the single market is a separate issue that will be crucial in our forthcoming renegotiation.”
He will warn that allowing excessive immigration puts a strain on public services and a focus on multiculturalism at the expense of British values, damaging the cohesion of society.