Johnson promises Aus-style visa policy from Jan 2021

Johnson called for people to vote for a majority Conservative Party government on December 12 to get Brexit done by the January 31, 2020 deadline and put all related changes in motion thereafter. AP/PTI

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday promised to have a post-Brexit Australian-style points-based visa policy in place by January 1, 2021, which would block entry to unskilled people and cut immigration figures.

In a speech on the General Election campaign trail in London, Johnson called for people to vote for a majority Conservative Party government on December 12 to get Brexit done by the January 31, 2020 deadline and put all related changes in motion thereafter.

The party has pegged its post-Brexit skills-based visa plans as one that would be equally applied to nationals of all countries, including India, after the current European Union (EU) freedom of movement rules come to an end.

"Our first move will be to bring the Withdrawal Agreement Bill back before Christmas and then leave the EU on January 31. No ifs and no buts – we’ll get it done," said Johnson.

"We’ll take steps to ensure that the Australian-style points-based immigration system is in place by January 1, 2021. By lowering the number of unskilled immigrants who have been able to come here with no job lined up, the system will remove a major force that puts downward pressure on wages,” he said.

A chance to the visa and immigration policy forms a key part of the ruling Conservative Party's manifesto, with a proposed system based on points for the English language as well as other skills which it claims would end “preferential treatment” of migrants from within the EU.

 

"If a Conservative majority government is elected in two weeks’ time, we will introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system that gives us control over who can come to the country. We will be able to attract the best and the brightest and bring down overall numbers," said Priti Patel, the UK home secretary and the senior-most Indian-origin minister in Johnson’s current Cabinet.

"When people voted to leave the EU, they voted to take back control of our borders so we welcome this fall in numbers. But net migration in excess of 210,000 a year is unsustainable and not what the British people want," she said.

The Opposition parties have challenged the Tory focus on cutting migrant numbers, with the Labour Party in favour of extending freedom of movement within a global workforce.

The focus on immigration remains a constant theme through the course of the election campaign alongside other issues, including climate change.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Johnson of avoiding media scrutiny after he declined to participate in a head to head leaders’ television debate on climate change on Thursday night.

The British Prime Minister sent in one of his ministers, Michael Gove, instead but Channel 4 decided to “empty chair” the Tories by replacing Johnson with a symbolic melting ice sculpture because it was scheduled as a leaders' debate.

The Conservative Party has lodged a complaint with media watchdog Ofcom and accused the channel of breaking its duty to be impartial during the elections.

In a letter to Ofcom, the party said Channel 4 News staged a "provocative partisan stunt, which would itself constitute making a political opinion in its own right" by substituting Johnson with an ice sculpture.

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