A Tory minister has said immigration is “not about putting numbers on it”, fuelling speculation the Conservatives could push for a “soft Brexit” after the general election.
The claim, by Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, contradicts Theresa May’s and David Cameron’s long-standing election pledge to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands”.
Yesterday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd also refused to be drawn on immigration numbers and would not say whether a net migration target would be included in the manifesto.
The comments came as sources revealed PM May had caved to pressure from within the government, and that foreign students would likely be discounted from immigration counts in future.
Speaking on Sky News, Ms. Bradley said: “What we need is to have the right people, to attract the brightest and best, it’s not about putting numbers on it, it’s about making sure we can deliver where industries need skills, where brightest and best want to come to Britain.
“We want to be an attractive place that people want to come and work and we want to be the strong economy that pays for those public services people value so much.”
— LEAVE.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) April 20, 2017
At the beginning of this month, the prime minister indicated Britain’s borders could stay open with uncontrolled mass migration continuing from the European Union (EU) for years after Brexit.
She claimed an “implementation” period was needed after the two-year Article 50 divorce phase, giving business a “period of time” to adjust to any new settlement.
And at the end of February, it was reported the EU was pushing to keep the UK’s borders open for another two years. The claim emerged from a seminar of senior officials chaired by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
“Are we going to maintain free movement for many years to come?” asked former UKIP leader Nigel Farage on BBC Radio 4 Thursday morning.
“You know, when [Theresa May] was home secretary, remember, she was going to reduce immigration. Did she? Not a bit of it,” he added.