Wednesday 21 February 2018

May commits Tories to reduce migration in 'tens of thousands'

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May visits radar manufacturer Kelvin Hughes Limited in Enfield, north London, yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May visits radar manufacturer Kelvin Hughes Limited in Enfield, north London, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Steven Swinford

British Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to reduce net migration to tens of thousands and said that Brexit will enable Britain to control its borders.

Mrs May confirmed yesterday that the policy will be in the Conservative manifesto after a week in which she and her ministers repeatedly refused to commit to the target.

The policy is in stark contrast to that of British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has previously indicated that he favours uncontrolled migration. The Conservatives first committed to cutting net migration to tens of thousands in 2010 under David Cameron, but have failed to meet the target and had been urged to abandon the pledge.

The policy is likely to be part of Mrs May's bid to appeal to Labour voters in the north of Britain as she seeks to secure a significant majority at the UK's general election in June.

The pledge suggests Mrs May wants to focus her campaign on areas she believes Labour cannot match. Repeated polls have shown that the public believes Mr Corbyn is weak on migration.

Mrs May told Sky News: "We have been very clear, as I was as home secretary for six years, that it is important that we have net migration that is in sustainable numbers. We believe sustainable numbers are the tens of thousands.

"Obviously leaving the EU means we can bring in control in relation to people moving from the EU into the UK as well as people from outside the EU coming into the UK."

In other developments yesterday:

  • 13 Labour MPs said they will not stand for re-election;
  • Nigel Farage, the ex-Ukip leader, said he will not stand and said he believes the Tories are on course for a landslide;
  • Mrs May's campaign team warned that polls suggesting she is on course for a landslide election victory could be hugely exaggerated;
  • A senior figure from Mr Cameron's administration said that the foreign aid spending target should be scrapped.

Net migration in the UK currently stands at 273,000 and senior Conservatives including Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, have called for tens of thousand target to be ditched.

Mrs May has a significant lead over Mr Corbyn on migration, which the Tories plan to exploit in Brexit-voting northern seats.

Read more: Theresa May distances herself from Daily Mail's 'Crush the saboteurs' headline

A UK Yougov poll this week found that the Conservatives have a 16-point lead over labour on immigration.

Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, yesterday appeared to suggest that the pledge could be abandoned after saying the migration is "not about numbers".

Having previously refused to comment on the pledge, Mrs May yesterday indicated that it will be included in the Conservative manifesto. Ministers have privately suggested that a majority of less than 60 will be a "disappointment" amid suggestions the Tories can win 80 Labour seats.

The news came as Nigel Farage said he will not stand in the general election. The former UK Independence Party leader says in an article in today's 'Daily Telegraph': "I have decided that I will not stand in this election but fight for Brexit in Europe."

He says he will fight for Brexit using his platform as a Ukip MEP in the European Parliament. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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