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Analysis

What on earth is Tory migration policy?

by Hugo Dixon | 02.06.2017

You’d have thought the Conservatives might have figured out their post-Brexit migration policy by now. But no such luck.

For a start, they have reiterated their target to cut net migration to the tens of thousands without saying how they will do this – despite making the same promise and failing to hit it in two previous manifestoes. Now they can’t agree among themselves whether there is a deadline for hitting the target.

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Theresa May told the Mirror yesterday she’s “working” to hit the target by 2022. But David Davis says they “can’t promise” to meet that timetable. The Brexit secretary told BBC Question Time last night: “That wasn’t actually in the manifesto, it was ‘we will bring it down’, we didn’t say, we didn’t put a date.”

Davis added: “We would like to do it in the parliament but I think, you know, it will be dictated by a number of things. The economy, the speed with which we can get our own people trained up to take the jobs, the changes in the welfare to encourage people to work… A whole series of things which were designed to ensure this is an economically successful policy.”

Well, it’s good that the Brexit secretary recognises that slashing net migration – which was 248,000 last year – might not be “economically successful”. It would actually be damaging. It wouldn’t just hurt growth; it would mean the government had less money to spend because of lower tax revenues – £12 billion a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

But whose pronouncements are we to believe – May’s or Davis’? Well, normally one would believe a prime minister rather than one of her team. But with May’s star fading, one can’t be sure. And Davis is correct that no deadline was mentioned in the manifesto.

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What’s more, the fact that the prime minister hasn’t set out a plan to hit the target means it’s right to be sceptical. Although her manifesto did set out some ideas for cutting migration from further afield, all it said on EU migration was that the Tories would cut the number of migrants from the EU while attracting the skilled workers we need.

May produced that document at the height of her hubris, when she thought she would walk the election without explaining herself. Voters might now conclude she is taking them for granted.

Edited by Michael Prest

2 Responses to “What on earth is Tory migration policy?”

  • Personally, I believe they are just flailing away with no sense of direction. They don’t have a plan, or if they do they daren’t publicise it. If May ends up with a smaller majority, or if there is a hung parliament then her very short and chaotic tenure as PM will almost certainly be over and the Tories may well end up with a civil war. The referendum and the general election may still leave the issue of our EU membership unresolved.

  • “the changes in the welfare to encourage people to work”

    work will set you free eh? That sounds highly troubling, given the previous actions of the DWP towards the unemployed.