Theresa May orders cabinet taskforce to draw up plans for ‘targeted visa system’

The Prime Minister will have personal oversight of the policy in meetings

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Theresa May has ordered her ministers to draw up an “efficient and targeted visa system” in the latest indication that the UK is heading for a hard Brexit.

Documents released by Downing Street show the Prime Minister has tasked a group of cabinet ministers to create the system, which would be at odds with single market membership.

In a sign that Ms May is keeping a tight rein on immigration policy, she will personally chair meetings of the group, unlike cabinet taskforces set up to deal with other policy areas.

The Government’s immigration taskforce will seek to ensure a new regime is introduced to slash the net number of arrivals into the UK to below 100,000 a year.

According to the terms of reference, the group will implement “domestic measures to control migration” and ensure “an efficient and targeted visa system”.

Ms May has also asked the taskforce to help cut migration numbers by “making it harder for illegal immigrants to stay in the country”.

The terms of reference for the previous immigration taskforce, chaired by David Cameron, made no mention of a visa system, focusing instead on controlling immigration from the EU “through reforming welfare rules and reducing reliance on migrant labour”.

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The implementation committee on housing is chaired by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, and the one on learning by Education Secretary Justine Greening.

But Ms May will take personal charge of the immigration group, which also consists of 12 of the most senior members of the Government, including Chancellor Philip Hammond, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and leading Brexiteers – Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Secretary David Davis and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

European leaders have consistently warned that full access to the single market is incompatible with restrictions to free movement.

It also comes after reports of a cabinet row over immigration, in which Mr Hammond is said to have raised doubts over the impacts on the economy of a block on low-skilled labour entering the UK.