Boris Johnson reveals ignorance over EU immigration figures in BBC interview

PM incorrectly claims migration from EU and non-EU is '50-50'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Friday 15 November 2019 14:09 GMT
Boris Johnson fails to recall immigration figures

Boris Johnson has incorrectly claimed both EU and non-EU net migration are equal in proportion, as he insisted a Conservative government would reduce immigration after Brexit.

The prime minister also made clear he had no intention to replicate the numerical targets for immigration set by his predecessors at Number 10 when quizzed on his election promises.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Mr Johnson said he was “in favour of people coming to this country”, but claimed immigration had put public services under pressure.

“It has in some sectors helped to keep our wages down,” he said.

When pressed on the proportion of people coming into the UK – according to the latest official figures – were from within the EU, Mr Johnson said: “Came from within the EU? From memory the total net migration proportions are about 50-50, but I may be wrong about that.”

The presenter, however, pointed out: “You are wrong about that.“

She continued: “According to the latest official statistics - over 200,000 came from outside the EU according to the 2019 statistics, and around 59,000 within the EU.”

The figures were released earlier this year, representing the lowest level of EU net migration to the UK since 2009. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that net migration from outside the EU had risen to its highest level in 15 years in the same period.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Johnson told BBC Breakfast in a separate interview that low-skilled immigration to the UK will come down if the Conservatives win the general election next month.

But he refused to commit to any numerical targets, and admitted his predecessors, including Theresa May and David Cameron, had failed to ever deliver on their manifesto pledges to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands.

“I do think myself we’ve been running very high rates of immigration for a long time,” Mr Johnson insisted. “I’m a pro-immigration politician. I think immigration can be a wonderful thing.

“I happen to think the rates you’re talking about have been very high and what we will be able to do once we come out of the EU, in January, is we will be able to take control of our borders.”

He continued: “When it comes to unskilled immigration, for people who don’t have a job to come to, we will get the numbers down. Overall, as a result, it will be lower. I can’t give you a figure.

“If you forgive me I’m not going to get into a numbers game. People have got into plenty of difficulty of satisfying those particular targets.”

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