Has PM ditched migrant target?
DOWNING Street suggested yesterday that the Tories’ target for reducing net migration to tens of thousands has finally been ditched.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said 270,000 a year would be ‘the logical place to start’ when asked what threshold the Government wanted to get numbers below.
It is the first time Rishi Sunak’s government has put a rough figure on what it will try to get net migration to fall below.
Asked if reducing it to tens of thousands was still possible, the PM’s spokesman distanced himself from the target, saying ministers weren’t going to put a ‘ specific number’ on it. But they insisted that Mr Sunak remained ‘committed to lowering overall migration, that hasn’t changed’. It comes after net migration was this week forecast to settle at around 245,000 a year in the long-term despite Mr Sunak’s pledge to reduce overall immigration.
The Office for Budget Responsibility revised its projection for long-term net migration – the difference between people moving to the UK and those leaving – up by 40,000 from its estimate in November.
It projected that the total will hit 245,000 a year from 2026-27 onwards. This was almost double what was predicted this time last year. The OBR also forecast that 1.6million people will arrive in the UK over the next five years – 300,000 more than previously thought. Asked yesterday whether the Government was ‘comfortable’ with the 245,000 figure, the PM’s spokesman said: ‘For our part we obviously have control of our immigration system [after Brexit] and we make decisions based on what we think is best for the whole UK.’
Pressed on what ‘baseline’ they would be lowering net migration against, they added: ‘The Office for National Statistics figures for net migration covering the year up to December 2019 was 270,000 per year... that would be a logical position to start.
‘As ever with immigration, there’s no silver bullet... but as a package of overall measures we want more UK workers to either stay or return to the workforce [to reduce reliance on foreign workers].’ Asked whether the tens of thousands target was achievable, he said: ‘The commitment from the Government is to reduce overall migration. We haven’t got into a specific number beyond that.’
Former PM David Cameron first pledged to keep net migration to tens of thousands in 2010. The target, which has never been met, was maintained by Theresa May’s government before being ditched in 2019 under Boris Johnson. But Home Secretary Suella Braverman appeared to revive it at the Tory party conference in October, saying it was her ‘ultimate aspiration’ to get net migration down into the tens of thousands.
In 2019, overall net migration to the UK was put at 270,000, meaning getting it to this level would only return it to pre-Brexit levels. In the year to last June, net migration was estimated to be 504,000 amid an influx of refugees from Ukraine and Hong Kong.