Boris Johnson and Michael Gove said leaving the EU would allow tougher standards for migrants from the continent to work in Britain, ensuring only those with desirable skills are able to enter.
But the plan was dismissed as a “fantasy” by George Osborne, and the Prime Minister said the move would “crash” the UK economy.
David Cameron warned that Australia, which has operated a points-based immigration system since 1989, had more migrants per head of population than the UK, and said leaving the EU would restrict the rights of Britons to work on the continent.
His comments were backed by the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who said a points-based system would trigger a “race to the bottom” with other European countries imposing their own restrictions on UK nationals.
Setting out their vision for after a Brexit vote, Mr Gove and Mr Johnson said: “To gain the right to work, economic migrants will have to be suitable for the job in question.
“For relevant jobs, we will be able to ensure that all those who come have the ability to speak good English.”
The Chancellor said the proposal was “unworkable”, adding that it would “increase immigration, take us out of the single market and cost us jobs.”
Meanwhile, a group of leading world economies yesterday warned that leaving the EU would have “substantial negative consequences” for the UK.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that uncertainty around the referendum on 23 June had already stifled economic growth, and warned a Brexit vote would send a shock wave through global financial markets.
Slashing its growth estimates for the UK economy, the OECD forecast that GDP would rise by 1.7 per cent this year, down from its April estimate of 2.2 per cent, and said that by 2030, and the economy would be 5 per cent smaller if voters choose to leave the EU.
“A decision to exit would result in considerable additional volatility in financial markets and an extended period of uncertainty about future policy developments, with substantial negative consequences for the United Kingdom, the European Union and the rest of the world,” the OECD report said.