Leaving EU could slash UK net migration by more than 100,000 a year, report claims

Leaving the EU could slash Britain's net migration by more than 100,000 per year, a new report has claimed.

Campaign group Migration Watch UK estimated that with tighter restrictions on those coming to the UK for work, the numbers could be reduced from current levels of around 180,000 to 65,000.

Its report examined what a post-Brexit regime might look like and estimated its likely effect on net migration. The report does not back either leaving or remaining in the EU.

Migration Watch campaigns for tighter immigration restrictions.

Britain Stronger in Europe described the report as "disingenuous".

Net migration is made up of the difference between the numbers of people arriving and leaving. It is likely to be a major talking point in the lead-up to the referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

Leaving the EU could slash Britain's net migration by more than 100,000, the report said. Credit: PA

The report said net migration could be "substantially reduced" if the UK only allowed entry to higher-skilled workers. It said only 20% of EU migrants since 2004 fell into this category.

Exiting both the EU and the European Economic Area would allow the UK to negotiate a new settlement, the study said.

Lord Green of Deddington, Migration Watch chairman, said: "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.

"Work permits for EU citizens would substantially reduce net migration and its resultant pressure on our population and public services."

But James McGrory, a spokesman for Britain Stronger in Europe, said the report was another example of anti-EU campaigners "fudging the facts".

"Freedom of movement isn't on the ballot paper - and neither Leave campaign even proposes ending it," he said.

"To suggest we can simply pick and choose which bits of Europe we like after voting to leave is a dishonest fantasy.

"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."

David Cameron is trying to renegotiate Britain's EU membership. Credit: PA

The report also concluded that there would be no need for restrictions on EU citizens coming to the UK as students or tourists.

Those who are "self-sufficient" would also be free to live in Britain, including those who are looking for jobs.

Under the suggested system there would also be no restriction on EU family members of British citizens coming to join them, while relatives of European skilled workers and students would have the right to live and work in the UK.

Those EU citizens already living and working in the UK would retain their existing rights, the report added.