'Ditch UK immigration target' demands think-tank

The UK needs an immigration plan matched to the country's economic needs. What else do government ministers - and the latest think-tank report - recommend?

Union jack flag with fingerprint superimposed on it
The incoming UK government should ditch the Conservatives' long-time pledge to reduce annual net migration to below 100,000 and, instead, devise a sustainable plan matched to the nation's economic needs, according to a new think-tank report.

Government should aim to reduce low- and medium-skilled migration to the UK

Publication of the report, which is being backed by two former Tory immigration ministers, came as Boris Johnson - the man most likely to succeed Theresa May next week - refused to commit himself to the net migration target, first announced in 2010.The report, from the centre-right think-tank Onward, said a detailed immigration plan should be adopted by the new government, with the aim of reducing low- and medium-skilled migration in the long term.Every Whitehall department, added the report, would be required to consider the potential impact that each of new policy would have on migration figures.
Read more:'Expect immigration numbers to increase', says prominent UK lawyer
The report also called for the creation of a new Office for Migration Responsibility in a bid to "keep ministers honest" about the impact of government forecasts and to provide independent assessments of migration trends. With net migration running at 253,00 in 2018, Will Tanner, director of Onward and a former deputy head of policy in Downing Street, said the current target was a "visible statement of failure".He added: "With net migration adding the equivalent of a city the size of Newcastle to the population each year, it is hardly surprising that the public no longer trust politicians on immigration."The tens of thousands target was once a powerful statement of intent but it has become a visible statement of failure. The next prime minister must replace it with a firm system that forces business and Whitehall to continue to confront the trade offs involved in immigration, and holds government's feet to the fire for deliver on its pledges."

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire: new UK government should review immigration policy

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, a former immigration minister, backed the report and said it was only right that a new government should review immigration policy."Immigration policy supports Britain's continued success story as a growing economy. Changes in skills needs or workforce shortages mean that we need to continue to attract people to come to the UK and be part of this positive vision. But there is a need for balance," he said."We have to do so in ways which recognise the cumulative pressures this can bring and the need for well integrated communities. Equally, we have to challenge ourselves to ensure we aren't using immigration as a simple fix to dealing with skills needs or structural issues within our labour market which require more systemic change."

Mark Harper: the public has lost confidence in UK politicians' immigration policy

Mark Harper, another former immigration minister, added: "For too long the public have thought, and quite rightly too, that our politicians do not have their hands on the wheel when it comes to immigration policy."This has to change and, as we leave the EU, we will regain the ability to shape a migration policy that can control immigration from wherever in the world it comes."

What do Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt propose to do about immigration?

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson, who has proposed an immigration policy based on a points-based system, said in a debate with leadership rival Jeremy Hunt on Monday evening that the message from the Brexit referendum was that the British public wanted to re-establish control over immigration.But he declined to commit himself to reduce annual net migration to the tens of thousands. "I'm not going to get into some numbers game with you," he replied when questioned about the long-standing target.When Mr Hunt was quizzed about reducing the number of immigrants, he said: "It's boosting the education and skills levels of our own people that's the right way to do it."

Read more about Brexit and immigration

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