I've heard from the Remain camp that the Leave camp has called for introducing an Australian-style points system for immigration.

I have a basic understanding of what a points-based system is - awarding points for age, skills and English proficiency. And I'm aware that currently the EU gives people in other countries freedom of movement.

However, what I'm confused about is what the UK has in place already. I thought it already has or had a points based system, which could be extended to EU country citizens if they wanted after a completed Brexit:

In February 2008, the Labour government introduced the UK's first points-based immigration system heralded by ministers as being based on the Australian system. It replaced a labyrinthine scheme which saw 80 different types of visa granted.

I also wonder if "Australian style points system" could be shorthand for other changes that are similar to, but not the same as, a points system.

Also, is it a political dog whistle?

What are Leave campaigners referring to when they talk about an Australian-style points system?

  • Why don't you make a single Google search that immediately answers the question and removes the need for all this vagueness? theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/01/… The plan is obviously to introduce this system or a very similar one for all immigrants into the U.K. Jun 29, 2016 at 12:36
  • @LubošMotl That describes what an Australian-style points system is, which I summarized in the second paragraph. It doesn't describe the status quo of the UK, which I mentioned in the third paragraph, that well.
    – Golden Cuy
    Jun 29, 2016 at 12:39
  • Why should it describe the status quo in the U.K.? The proposal is obviously to switch to a different immigration system. Do you understand that Australia and the U.K. are two different countries? If you do, how can you misunderstand what it means to introduce the Australian point-based system? Jun 29, 2016 at 12:53

2 Answers 2


However, what I'm confused about is what the UK has in place already. I thought it already has or had a points based system, which could be extended to EU country citizens if they wanted:

They can NOT extend it to EU citizens!

One of the conditions of EU membership or taking part in the EU internal market (as Norway and Switzerland do) is free movement of people. That means that any EU citizens can move to the UK, buy or rent a house and get a job or offer services/sell goods.

The Leave campaign's promises to "take control of immigration" was about Polish, Romanian and other EU citizens, to subject them to a points-based system as now applies to Non-EU citizens.

As an aside: The EU just today made a statement warning the UK that there would be no exceptions to the rules, access to the EU market means free movement of people. So the UK will likely have to choose whether the price of losing free access to the EU market is acceptable for them to be able to implement their own immigration controls.

  • What does it mean to have "free access" to the single market? Ignorant question, I know, but you'll have to forgive me, it's an American foible ;) I mean, the US buys champagne and people in Germany drive Corvettes, so clearly we have access somehow to the European market. And yet we don't have free movement (immigration) of Greeks or Romanians or whatever. So is it just a matter of trading off some tarrifs or other trade fees for more control over immigration?
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 29, 2016 at 14:39
  • 4
    It means one set of rules throughout the countries and no import tariffs or other barriers between the member countries. To sell a Corvette in the EU, a US company would not only have to pay a 10% import tariff, it would need to submit the car model for extensive road safety tests, emissions tests, etc. The same for European food products that may need to be approved by the FDA, causing months of delay in product development. All these barriers to competing are gone within the single market. Your product is approved in your country? It's good in all the EU!
    – Cyrus
    Jun 29, 2016 at 14:52
  • I see. So the tradeoff is increased friction and cost to trade with Europe, not the "inability" to trade with Europe. That makes sense. Thanks!
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 29, 2016 at 14:53

I am not sure if I truly understand what is being asked, feel free to correct me if I am off-topic.

The confusion comes from EU freedom of movement vs. Schengen area.

  • As the UK was not part of the Schengen area, non EU nationals that obtained a Schengen visa could move through the Schengen area, but could not enter UK from another EU country. Entry of non EU nationals in the UK was not related to the UK being part of the EU, and was controlled only by UK laws and treaties. It is to that people that the point system (or whatever other system the UK decides) can be/is applied.

  • For being part of the EU, EU nationals could move and settle and work freely1 in the UK. There was no way for the UK government to limit that.

The Brexit supporter wants to apply the same immigration controls both to EU nationals and non EU nationals; if they are happy with the system as applied to non EU nationals or if they want to make some changes to it is something I do not know.

1Technically speaking, freedom of movement applies only to workers. After a time in the country even EU nationals immigrants with no job and no ability to sustain themselves could be expelled, as other EU countries do. The only legal restriction is that repatriation orders must be considered in a case-by-case basis.

  • Note that the Brexit supporters seem to ignore the privileges of nationals from Commonwealth countries like India. Jun 29, 2016 at 20:13
  • Freedom of movement does not apply only to workers. It also applies to students, job seekers, and those with sufficient resources to support themselves without work.
    – phoog
    Feb 11, 2017 at 6:28

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