PRIME minister Theresa May said today (8) that her Conservative Party would keep its pledge to bring down net immigration to the United Kingdom down to “tens of thousands” per year if it wins an election next month.
“It is important that we continue, and we will continue, to say that we do want to bring net immigration down to sustainable levels. We believe that is the tens of thousands,” May told supporters in London.
Despite being a Conservative commitment since the party came to power in 2010, the target has so far been missed.
Official data shows a net 273,000 people came to Britain in the year to last September, down 49,000 from the previous year and the lowest recorded figure since the year ending June 2014.
“Of course, once we leave the European Union we will have the opportunity to ensure that we have control of our borders here in the UK because we will be able to establish our rules for people coming from the European Union into the UK,” May said.
“Leaving the EU means that we won’t have free movement as it has been in the past,” she added .
Until the Brexit deal is finalised, any Conservative-led government is likely to continue tightening immigration norms for non-EU nationals, including from countries such as India.
Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron said: “India is a key strategic partner for the United Kingdom and the British-Indian community contribute so much to our country. Liberal Democrat immigration policies will therefore seek to maximise the economic, cultural and social benefit of these relationships and welcome immigration as a blessing, not a curse.”
Under former Tory prime minister David Cameron, the level of net migration rose to a record 330,000, but May, then as home secretary in charge of immigration, refused to abandon the tens of thousands target.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who is standing for re-election in the London constituency of Streatham, said keeping the target would be “foolish”.
He tweeted: “The Tories persist in a migration target they’ve never met and are unlikely ever to achieve. Just drop it.”
Labour said it will unveil its own immigration policy next week.
Meanwhile, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) outlined its own “one in, one out” immigration policy for the polls, which it claims will see the number of people coming to the UK cut from 600,000 a year to 300,000 a year, over five years.