Britain must use its Brexit freedoms to cut net migration after taking a “naïve” approach since the 2016 vote, Robert Jenrick declared.
The Immigration Minister – a close ally of Rishi Sunak – revealed “further substantial changes” will be needed to restore control and reduce pressure on creaking public services.
Migrants could have to earn £34,528 to qualify for a work visa, under new plans being considered.
Foreign workers could also face limits on the number of family members they can bring with them. And the Government could launch a crackdown on the care visa route, amid fears many are using it as a way into the country.
Mr Jenrick warned that the Government had been “naïve” in its approach to legal immigration since Brexit and did not rule out a future cap on the number of migrants.
He told a Policy Exchange fringe event at the Conservative Party conference: “What I’m concerned about is the consequences of some of the decisions that were made immediately after we left the European Union, which turned out to be significant liberalisations of the present system, and in some cases quite naïve about the consequences.
“There are reforms to be done which will unwind some of that. We are bringing in quite a large number of people who are lower skilled. The current salary threshold that the points based system applies is just over £26,000.
“That is not, to most people’s definition, a high-skilled worker. So I can see a good argument for increasing that to something that is more akin to the median salary.
“I also think there are a very large number of people coming in on the care visa route – 120,000. I think that is something that needs careful consideration.
“Then there are other areas, like the ability to bring family members into the UK from around the World, even if you don’t have the resources to actually look after those people.”
Mr Jenrick said Brexit should be a catalyst for Britain to “protect our borders and make intelligent choices about who comes in for what.”
He said: “Brexit gave politicians like the Home Secretary and I the levers which we can pull to control our legal migration system. That will be proven in the years ahead. We are living in an age of mass migration.
“You see tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people on the move throughout the world looking to come to develop countries like the UK, where the economic prospects will be better, and we have to have control over the levers to ensure that we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and make intelligent choices about who comes in, for what reason.,
“Where I think we’ve gone wrong, is that immediately after leaving the EU, we established a legal migration system that was, if anything. more liberal than the system that we had when we were in the European Union.
“You’ve seen some reforms already. We made a significant one earlier in the year, with respect to dependents people coming to university bringing their family members with them, often used as a back door to life in the UK.
“But it’s clear to me that further substantial changes are going to be necessary. The model that we’ve adopted as a country is not working, and we can’t continue it.
“We can’t continue it. And that’s why we do need to finish the revolution that we started with Brexit, by not just taking back control of those levers, but actually exercising them so that we can make intelligent choices and reduce the amount of legal migration into the country.”
Net migration has surged to a record 600,000 – heaping pressure on ministers to slash it after years of repeated promises. It is almost three times the number at the time of the Brexit vote in 2016, when net migration stood at around 223,000 a year, and well beyond David Cameron’s pledge to limit migration to the “tens of thousands”.
Mr Jenrick, in a surprise attack on the Conservatives’ record on immigration since the Brexit referendum, said: The average salary in the UK is £34,528, according to the latest ONS employment figures.
Mr Jenrick revealed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman are all committed to reducing legal migration. He said: “The age of mass migration that we’re living in completely validates the decision to leave the EU. It is already clear that having control of those levers is incredibly important. And it will be even more so in the decades to come.
“That’s why so many people voted to leave the European Union. We have to not just back control of the levers of immigration, but actually exercise them to bring control to our migration system.”