Home Secretary Amber Rudd has been slapped down after hinting the Conservatives might drop their target to reduce net migration to “tens of thousands”.
A source made clear the much-ridiculed pledge will be included in next week’s manifesto, even though it is widely seen as unachievable.
The most recent figures put net migration at 273,000 and experts have warned it will take many years to introduce stricter rules for EU immigrants after Brexit.
Meanwhile, several Cabinet ministers have spoken of the need for workers to continue to arrive, to avoid damage to industries in their own sectors.
Yesterday, Ms Rudd - Theresa May's successor as Home Secretary – appeared to side with those voices in Cabinet pushing for the “tens of thousands” pledge to be axed.
Asked whether the 2017 manifesto would restate the target, Ms Rudd told BBC Radio 5’s Pienaar’s Politics programme that “it's right that we look at it again”.
“It's not going to be identical to the last one,” Ms Rudd said. “We're setting it out for hopefully for a five-year term, we've got a lot to think through to work out what's the best way to deliver on our priorities.
“My personal view is we need to continue to bring immigration down. I want to make sure that we do it in a way that supports businesses.”
Now it is understood the commitment will be included in the new manifesto, after the Prime Minister said, last month: “I believe that sustainable net migration is in the tens of thousands.
“Leaving the European Union enables us to control our borders in relation to people coming from the EU, as well as those who are coming from outside.”
Ms Rudd said the Government would consult business this summer about the skilled and unskilled EU migration it would need after Brexit, while urging it to recruit more British workers.
“Of course and immigration is good for this country, is good for business has been absolutely positive for the country overall, and we will want to continue that,” she said.
“We will continue it though in a way that doesn't allow for straightforward freedom of movement, which is what we've been having in the EU which has caused such disquiet in some communities.”
The Independent and the Open Britain group are running a Drop the Target campaign urging the Government to abandon the “tens of thousands” goal.
Joe Carberry, co-executive director of Open Britain, said: “There is no justification for a migration target that, if ever met, would deny our economy of the skills and talent our businesses need.
“Any migration policy should be based on need not numbers. Whether in our NHS, farming, manufacturing or hospitality, the services and sectors we rely on would all be harmed if there were heavy restrictions on EU nationals coming to the UK.”
Meanwhile, Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will be setting out his immigration policy on Monday, expected to include a “one in, one out” pledge to cut net migration to zero.
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