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Liam Fox suggests 'tens of thousands' immigration target could be dropped

Home secretary Sajid Javid recently refused to explicitly endorse the troubled immigration target 

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Tuesday 21 August 2018 10:36 BST
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International trade secretary Liam Fox has said the government must 'look' at immigration policy after Brexit
International trade secretary Liam Fox has said the government must 'look' at immigration policy after Brexit (AFP/Getty)

A cabinet minister has indicated that Theresa May’s target to lower net migration to the tens of thousands could be dropped.

Liam Fox said that while the target was in place “at the moment”, the government needed to “look” at how it shaped its immigration policy in the future.

The International Trade Secretary has previously also made clear his concerns about the inclusion of students in the net migration target.

The indication that he believes changes to migration policy will be needed, come after Home Secretary Sajid Javid also refused to endorse the target in an interview.

The Independent has been running the Drop The Target campaign for over a year in a bid to see the end of the blunt immigration policy, backed by Ms May since her days in the Home Office.

Asked on LBC Radio if the target was the correct approach, Dr Fox said: “Well, that is the government’s target at the moment. We will be reviewing what we do post-Brexit.”

Pushed on whether he supported the target, he said: “Naturally as a member of the cabinet I support the government’s policy but I think that we do need to look in the future at how we match our employment opportunities with our migration policy.

Yvette Cooper: “It’s a massive chain round your neck, that immigration target, isn’t it- Don’t you want to ditch it”

“I think the big problem with free movement from Europe was that people were able to come to the United Kingdom without having a job and they were able to use our public services like schools and hospitals and housing without ever having contributed and I don’t think the British public thought that was fair and neither do I.”

Anti-immigration politicians have attacked the government’s consistent failure to hit the target since it came in, whilst those in government around Ms May have been pushing for it to be scrapped for years.

We do need to look in the future at how we match our employment opportunities with our migration policy

International trade secretary Liam Fox

Current Home Secretary Mr Javid has refused to explicitly say that he supported the target, but did insist he remained committed to the Conservative Party’s manifesto.

George Osborne, the former Conservative chancellor, said last year that no senior ministers supported the approach.

Net migration rose to 282,000 in 2017, up from 249,000 in 2016 while net migration from the EU fell to 101,000 in 2017, down from 133,000 in 2016 to its lowest level since 2012.

Even after Brexit, the fact that non-EU migration was also above 100,000 in the most recent figures shows just how difficult it could be to meet the target.

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