Tories will keep pledge to cut migration to ‘tens of thousands’

Border force official Image copyright

The Conservatives will once again promise to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands” in their election manifesto, the BBC understands.

On Sunday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd refused to say whether the pledge – which was in the 2010 and 2015 Tory manifestos – would be repeated.

But the BBC understands it will definitely be in the 2017 manifesto.

The target, set by David Cameron in 2010, has never been met and recent figures put net migration at 273,000.

The Conservative manifesto, setting out the party’s policies if it wins 8 June’s general election, is expected to be published next week.

Questions had been raised about whether the migration target would be in it after Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said that immigration was “not about putting numbers on it” but about ensuring Britain had the skilled workers it needed.

Asked whether she agreed with her colleague, Ms Rudd told BBC Radio 5 live’s Pienaar’s Politics: “It’s too early to say.

“I appreciate you want to push me on this but we are going to have to wait until the manifesto comes out.”

‘Lot to work through’

Pressed on the issue again, she added: “That’s why we’re having a new manifesto. It’s not going to be identical to the last one.

“We’re setting it out for hopefully for a five-year term. We’ve got a lot to think through to work out what’s the best way to deliver on our priorities.”

She added: “My personal view is, we need to continue to bring immigration down.

“I want to make sure that we do it in a way that supports businesses – you know we’re ending freedom of movement when we leaving the European Union.

“So the situation from that time the [2015] manifesto… has changed because we’re leaving the European Union, so it’s right that we look at it again.”

Net migration is the difference between the number of people arriving into and leaving the UK.

BBC political correspondent Ben Wright said he understood that the “tens of thousands” target would definitely be in the 2017 manifesto.

Speaking on a campaign visit last month, Theresa May, who was Ms Rudd’s predecessor as home secretary, told the BBC: “We want to see sustainable net migration in this country.

“I believe that sustainable net migration is in the tens of thousands.”

The Conservatives have promised new migration controls after the UK leaves the EU, when freedom of movement rules will no longer apply, but they have yet to set out the precise model they would adopt.

Brexit ‘back slide’

Labour says it accepts that the principle of the free movement of people – which EU leaders say goes hand-in-hand with single market membership – would have to end after Brexit.

But shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has said new immigration controls should not be the “overarching priority” as the UK leaves.

UKIP has said that Mrs May’s failure to reduce net migration to under 100,000 while she was home secretary suggests that she could yet “back slide” on delivering Brexit.

Tories will keep pledge to cut migration to ‘tens of thousands’}