[LONDON] Britain should aim to retain visa-free travel with the other 27 European Union member states after its withdrawal from the bloc but only issue work permits to skilled employees, Migration Watch UK said on Wednesday.
Refusing permits to unskilled workers would reduce the net inflow of migrants from the EU by about 100,000 people a year, the immigration research group said in an e-mailed report.
A "key workers" programme may be needed to help employers adjust to losing the ability to tap the EU for low-paid labourers, but it would have to be time-limited and have a cap that tapers downward, it said.
Net migration to the UK is close to record levels, and Prime Minister Theresa May, who sees the result of the Brexit referendum in June as a rejection of unfettered immigration, has said she's seeking a deal that will free Britain from the EU's freedom-of-movement rules.
Her predecessor David Cameron pledged to reduce immigration to the "tens of thousands" but failed to do so.
"It is important that we retain and develop our many links with Europe while also tackling a significant part of the mass migration that has been so troubling for the British public," Migration Watch Vice-Chairman Alp Mehmet said in a statement.