When WILL you bring immigration down, Rishi? Sunak suggests he only hopes to get net inflows back under 500,000 by election – despite manifesto pledging numbers will be below 226,000
Rishi Sunak has suggested he is hoping for immigration to be running below 500,000 by the time of the next election – despite the Tory manifesto promising numbers will be under 226,000.
The PM conceded that net migration into the UK is ‘too high’ but refused to spell out what would be an acceptable level.
With figures next week expected to show another record amid the chaos in Afghanistan, Ukraine and Hong Kong, Mr Sunak hinted he was aiming to get inflows under the 504,000 reached in the year to last June.
He said he was focused on lowering the level he ‘inherited’.
Mr Sunak has been struggling to contain Cabinet infighting over immigration, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman publicly pushing for tough action while other ministers say foreign workers and student are needed to keep the economy running.
Immigration ‘could go up’ under Labour
Migration could increase in the ‘short term’ under a Labour government, the party’s chairwoman has suggested, but would ultimately be reduced by addressing the domestic skills shortage.
Anneliese Dodds indicated Labour would focus less on a target-based approach to the number of people entering the country, and more on training within the UK.
She pointed to the party’s pledge to double the number of medical school places and train 10,000 more nurses and midwives each year as an example.
Asked on Sky News whether Labour wants migration to increase, Ms Dodds said: ‘Well, what we would see if we had an immigration system that was working properly would be potentially in some areas where there’s a short-term need for skills, you could see in the short term actually people who are coming in increasing in number.
‘But in the medium and long-term, a reduction, because we would be training people up in our own country.
‘We’ve not had that unfortunately under the Conservatives. We’ve got skills shortages and those shortages are not being filled because there’s not the domestic upskilling that needs to be taking place.’
During a round of interviews at Hiroshima’s Seifukan tea house this morning as the G7 summit kicks off, Mr Sunak said he is ‘crystal clear’ he wants to reduce net migration.
But he said to BBC News: ‘I’m not going to put a precise figure on it but I do want to bring them down.
‘The numbers are too high and we want to bring them down. Now, the numbers last year were impacted by the fact that we welcomed Ukrainian refugees to the UK. Again, that’s something I think we are proud of.’
The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised that ‘overall numbers will come down’ as the Government ends freedom of movement in the wake of Brexit.
Migration levels were at 226,000 then. They exceeded 500,000 in the year to June 2022 and it could be as high as one million in new figures due to be published in the coming weeks.
Mr Sunak avoided giving a specific commitment when pressed by Sky News whether he can bring down net migration to below 500,000 by the next election,
He said: ‘I’m committed to bringing down the levels of migration that I inherited, and I’m relentlessly focused on stopping the boats, that’s one of my five priorities, and we’re doing absolutely everything we can to do that.’
Mr Sunak raised migration with allies at a Council of Europe meeting in Iceland on Tuesday.
The PM believes he had made ‘another big step forward’ with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the UK working with the bloc’s border force, Frontex.
And he also held talks with the president of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Siofra O’Leary, over a review of the working of Rule 39.
The order was used to block the inaugural forced removal flight of refugees to Rwanda last year.
Mr Sunak sees the stalled policy as key to reducing unauthorised entries to the UK.