Britain needs to reopen its borders to tens of thousands of EU migrants to fill labor shortages and tackle inflation, a former pro-Brexit Conservative minister has claimed.
George Eustice, who advocated in favor of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union during the 2016 referendum, called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to negotiate “youth-mobility visa scheme” with EU nations which would see young Europeans under the age of 35 able to apply for two-year working visas in Britain.
“The flaws in our current so-called skills-based immigration system are becoming clearer by the day because we have got a policy that does not correspond to the needs of our economy,” Eustice said in an exclusive interview with The Observer newspaper.
“We are allowing in people who are deemed skilled such as lawyers, insolvency practitioners, museum officers, even disc jockeys, when we have no shortages whatsoever in those sectors. But we are not allowing people to come here to work in sectors like the food industry, even though there are acute labor shortages in these sectors, and that is contributing to inflation,” the former minister, who served as secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs in Boris Johnson’s cabinet, added.
“So that is the big problem. My proposal is that we commence bilateral negotiations with EU member states, starting with countries like Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic states, and widen it to the whole of the EU eventually, to establish a reciprocal youth-mobility visa scheme.”
A previously unsuccessful candidate for the anti-EU U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) in European parliamentary elections, Eustice was a prominent member of the Vote Leave campaign spearheaded by Boris Johnson in during the 2016 referendum.
He was a fierce opponent of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and frequently took aim at Brussels during the referendum campaign for its protective regulatory framework he claimed was hampering British farmers.
“If we have the courage to take back control, we would be free to think again and could achieve so much more for farmers and our environment,” he wrote in a Telegraph article in February 2016.
The most prominent slogan Vote Leave used during the campaign was a call to “take back control” of British laws, money, and borders.
Ardent Brexiteers are now accusing Eustice of rank hypocrisy by calling for an even further relaxation of Britain’s new immigration policy which has resulted in two consecutive years of record-high mass immigration into the country despite Brexit.
Richard Tice, the leader of the Reform Party, called Eustice’s remarks further evidence of the “Brexit betrayal” by the U.K. establishment.
“George Eustice betrays British workers as he wants open borders immigration to reduce British wages. Totally out of touch with the mood of the nation. Just another Tory who wants the U.K. to slide back into EU control,” he tweeted on Sunday evening.
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“The Conservatives want even more immigration. Apparently the fiasco we currently have is not enough,” added a Reform Party spokesperson.
The remarks were considered a gift for those Conservative politicians who long opposed Brexit, leading Tory peer Ed Vaizey to lay into the Brexit-supporting Tory backbenchers.
“We’re back with the insane wing of the Conservative Party. George Eustice has just effectively proposed free movement of people but with bureaucratic knobs on. We’re going back to the future and it’s so frustrating,” he told the BBC’s Politics Live.
Eustice, who currently represents the Cornish constituency of Camborne and Redruth, announced in January his intention to stand down from front line politics at the next election, one of dozens of Conservative MPs many will say are jumping before they are pushed having regard to the overwhelmingly favorable polls for the opposition Labour Party ahead of next year’s general election.