It was confirmed last week that the government has scrapped the infamous target on net annual migration – one that had since its announcement been divisive and controversial, and which had brought Theresa May’s government considerable problems and even more negative press.
The Security Minister, Brandon Lewis, was quoted in the Evening Standard as saying that the government was not going to set an “arbitrary target” for inward migration. He reiterated the Prime Minister’s support for a points-based immigration system, saying that it would give priority to skilled workers and suggesting that net immigration figures would fall. It must have come as a relief to many within Westminster to hear of the formal end to a policy that had never been achieved. The Evening Standard put the 2018 level of migration at 258,000, and the 2016 level at 336,000 – both a far cry from the 100,000 target held on to by the government for so long.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel also stated last week that reducing net migration would remain a priority for a Conservative majority government after 12 December 2019. It is intended that this will be achieved through the implementation of an Australian style points-based immigration system which will apply to all migrants after Brexit and give priority to those with higher skills. Ms Patel stressed that the introduction of such a system would be a means to ‘control our borders and protect our public services’.
Given that the general election is only weeks away is understandable why a policy that places no emphasis on concrete numbers or quantifiable expectations would be the government’s preferred option at this time. Nevertheless, the above announcement was welcomed by business groups such as the Institute of Directors, which has pressed consistently for immigration policies to be designed around economic realities and national necessity rather than politically expedient and populist sound-bites.
We shall wait to see what will come to replace the government’s previous attempt to put an arbitrary limit on immigration figures, but what is clear for now is that the long-standing pledge to bring that figure down to 100,000 has been consigned to history.
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Solicitor working in our Complex Case team