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Immigration Immigration

Reduce annual net migration to tens of thousands

Last updated: 08:44pm 11 December 2019

It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.54

Our verdict

This policy has its genesis (in terms of contemporary party politics) back in 2007 when David Cameron was the Leader of the Opposition. He began to speak about the need to reduce net migration. Over the next few years that sentiment hardened into a quantifiable target. It was declared an “ambition” in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto and, despite a persistent failure to meet the target since it was first raised as an idea, returned again in 2017 with this promise to reduce annual net migration to levels in the tens of thousands.

As Prime Minister, Theresa May (who, when she was Home Secretary, introduced the so-called “hostile environment“) oversaw the publication of a white paper, The UK’s future skills-based immigration system, setting out proposals for a post-Brexit immigration system.

Since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, the Queen’s Speech announced a new Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (this was not published before the December general election). Most significantly for this policy, a House of Commons Library Briefing Paper informs us:

“The Johnson Government has reportedly dropped the Conservative’s net migration target. Following Boris Johnson’s first statement in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister’s spokesman confirmed that Boris Johnson was not interested in “a numbers game”. “

Whilst not quite an official announcement, this came from the Prime Minister’s spokesman so is enough to be considered a policy reversal. If confirmation were needed, the ‘tens of thousands’ target was nowhere to be seen in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto. On becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson dropped this pledge. This policy is ‘broken’.

Interested in the numbers game? Get the details.

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