Business Secretary Greg Clark fails to say which foreign workers UK can turn away without damaging the economy

Mr Clark struggles to explain - four times - which workers Britain would reject in order to meet Tories' net migration target

Business Secretary Greg Clark fails to answer where migration drop will come from four times

Business Secretary Greg Clark failed four times to say which foreign workers Britain could turn away without wrecking the economy.

Mr Clark was skewered after being asked to explain how the Conservatives could achieve their widely-derided pledge to cut net migration to “tens of thousands” a year.

Business groups have quickly attacked the policy – reaffirmed by Theresa May this week – with the CBI warning “people are our currency”.

Meanwhile, several Cabinet ministers have spoken openly of the need for workers to continue to arrive, to avoid damage to industries in their own sectors.

Mr Clark was unable to say which immigrants Britain would no longer need when quizzed by Justin Webb, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, in the following exchange:

Mr Webb: “Who are you targeting?”

Mr Clark: “The key difference is that we will have control over that policy in a way that we haven’t in the past.”

The Business Secretary was then urged to recognise that the NHS, agriculture, universities and the construction industry had all warned they needed foreign workers to prosper.

Mr Webb: “Where are you going to get your reduction – your very, very sizeable reduction – from?

Mr Clark: “Well, it comes from being able to set our own policy….”

Mr Webb: “Yes, but where, once you set your policy, where are you going to look.”

Mr Clark: “….to look at the circumstances of each of the individual sectors and types of business, to say what is the right policy for that.”

Mr Webb: “Who’s coming at the moment who won’t be coming to make sure you hit your target?”

Mr Clark: “Part of what we need to do, as a country, as an economy, is to make sure that we develop the skills in this country, to be able to benefit from the opportunities that there are....”

The Business Secretary went on to insist there was “no suggestion” of barring skilled migrants, despite the pledge to reduce net migration below 100,000.

“What has always been clearly understood is that there is no suggestion that no one would be able to come and work in this country that has skills that are required, or indeed go from this country to elsewhere,” Mr Clark said.

The Tories would focus on building up technical skills in the British workforce over “the medium and long term” to reduce the need for foreign labour.

The CBI has led criticism of the “tens of thousands” a year policy, calling instead for “a preferential approach for the EU” by the end of the year.

It said businesses badly needed “the ability to move people around quickly onto a construction project, or to make a television programme, or to work on a legal project”.

“We have a much, much higher degree of integration of our businesses within Europe than we do in any other part of the world, said Carolyn Fairbairn, the business group’s director general.

“We are a services based-economy and people are our currency. It is about maintaining that ease and flexibility and agility which is so important in today’s economy.”

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