Douglas Carswell has admitted he is “very keen” for Britain to continue allowing unlimited numbers of EU workers into the country - on one condition.
The MP, who last month left Ukip to become an independent in the House of Commons, said free movement of labour should continue, but only for migrants paid more than £24,000 a year by the companies hiring them.
Carswell predicted setting a minimum income for EU workers would help take the “toxicity out” of immigration - and be where Theresa May “will have to... land”.
“Unless you want to live in North Korea, you have to accept that the degree of labour mobility will be higher in 10, 15, 20 years time,” he said on Tuesday in a talk to the Institute for Government.
“The London level of labour mobility will be national and this is an inevitable consequence of modernity.
“I’m in favour of ending the free movement of people, obviously, but the free movement of workers, I think, is perfectly compatible with our status outside the EU - and I’m very keen on that idea…”
He explained: “What I propose is - and I think this is where the government will have to more or less land - companies will be allowed to issue National Insurance numbers employing non-UK, EU nationals on one major proviso: they pay them more than £24,000 a year.
“By saying that you can only employ someone if you pay them more than £24,000, you remove the problem of wage compression.
The reason why migration has become such a toxic issue is because it means that for millions of people outside London the minimum wage has become a maximum wage." Douglas Carswell
”That is the problem. If you create a system of free movement of workers but you set the cap of £24,000 - and you age a vote on it in Parliament every year like we do for setting income tax rate - you will take the toxicity out of the issue.”
Carswell was later questioned on what future he saw for Ukip - the party he defected to back in 2014 but spectacularly quit three years later after a long-running feud with its then leader, Nigel Farage.
“I think we should reward ourself a medal or a knighthood - no-one else will,” he joked, before turning serious.
“We’ve won. But generally speaking, if you’ve won a battle or a war you disband and you go home, and you reach out to the people that you beat and try and win the peace - and that’s what we need to do.”
Carswell left Ukip to stand as an independent MP in March.
In his resignation statement, he said: “It has been an extraordinary achievement. Ukip, my party, which was founded in 1993 in order to get Britain out of the European Union, has now achieved what we were established to do.”
He was followed weeks later by the only other MP ever to win election as a Ukip candidate, Mark Reckless.