BORIS Johnson took the fight to UKIP yesterday, pledging to introduce a points-based immigration system or else quit the EU altogether.
But his promise sparked a war of words between business groups and MPs as some backed his plan while others want firms to be allowed to hire the workers they need.
“In the renegotiation, we need to get back some control over borders,” the mayor of London told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday. “Why shouldn’t we have a system, some sort of points based system or whatever, such as they have in America or Australia? If we don’t get the reform we need in 2016-17, we should campaign to come out.”
Mark Field, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster backed Boris’s plans, predicting that other EU members like Germany and Denmark might support such a change.
“The best way start to it would be to have a points-based system for immigrants from outside EU to show it works – to attract brightest and best from India, from Australia, across the world. Then it would be a good template for negotiations within the EU,” Field told City A.M.
Campaign group Business for Britain backed the idea, arguing: “By either securing this inside the EU or forging a new deal out, Britain will be in a win-win situation.”
But the London Chambers of Commerce said Boris’ time would be better spent elsewhere.
“We cannot be part if the club then pick and chose the rules,” said director of policy and public affairs Sean McKee. “Boris should focus on those parts of the EU that businesses tell us are affecting performance like excessive regulation of employment.”
The CBI’s Katja Hall said free movement “boosts investing in the UK, creates jobs, and offers UK businesses real benefits in working with our biggest trading partners.”
And the Adam Smith Institute’s Sam Bowman called Boris’ plan “barking mad.”
“However the UK’s relationship with the EU ends up, it is vital that we preserve the freedom for people to work where they can find the best deal,” Bowman said.