The Tory Home Secretary has refused to confirm the government still aims to hit their long-standing target of bringing immigration below 100,000 this electoral term, a year before Britain leaves the European Union (EU).
Amber Rudd would not say if the government was striving to hit the manifesto pledge by the time of the 2022 election, calling it “a challenging target” whilst being grilled by the Commons Home Affairs Committee.
When asked to restate the “tens of thousands” target boasted about by former Prime Minister David Cameron and maintained by Theresa May, Mrs. Rudd instead said her aim was to reduce immigration to “sustainable levels”.
“There are many ways of reducing immigration,” Ms. Rudd said according to AP, “and there are going to be more ways of doing it once we leave the European Union.”
She added: “It is a concern to many people, particularly the people who voted to leave the EU, that immigration is too high, so I will be making sure that we continue to reduce it.”
Yet, she went on to announce 1,000 new border staff would be hired “to improve the quality of our border and prepare specifically for Brexit”. The measure is part of £395 million investment provided by the Treasury for Brexit preparations in this financial year.
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During the committee session, Ms. Rudd also said the need to pass new immigration laws had been pushed back.
“The timing for the immigration bill has been delayed because the key element of protecting EU citizens in their rights in the UK has now been achieved through the withdrawal agreement which is going to come before parliament later this year,” she said.
“So the urgency that we had before with the white paper, with the immigration bill, has to a certain extent been removed.”
Last month, new official figures showed that net immigration remains high, but the inflow from the EU is beginning to slow since the Brexit vote.
Annual net migration stood at around 244,000 in the year ending September 2017, down from record levels in 2016, but still around two and a half times the government’s stated target.
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