David Davis has admitted that he “can’t promise” to reduce immigration to the amount the Tories have pledged in their manifesto.
The Brexit Secretary’s comments on BBC Question Time on Thursday night undermines his party leader’s promise to reduce migration to the tens of thousands before 2022.
When asked by host David Dimbleby: “If you’re re-elected as the government next Thursday is it still your aim to get it (migration) down to 100,000 within the five years of the Parliament?”
Davis replied: “[It’s] the aim, yes, but we can’t promise within five years, that’s the point.”
Earlier in the segment, the Tory MP said that his party had not pledged in the manifesto to reduce immigration within the next five years.
“That wasn’t actually in the manifesto, it was ‘we will bring it down’, we didn’t say, we didn’t put a date,” Davis said.
“We would like to do it in the parliament, but I think, you know, it will be dictated by a number of things.
“The economy, the speed with which we can get our own people trained up to take the jobs, the changes in the welfare to encourage people to work.
“A whole series of things which were designed to ensure this is an economically successful policy.”
Davis’s remarks were criticised by viewers, including his political rivals:
His contradiction of Theresa May’s earlier comments was also described as a “cabinet of chaos”.
Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who was also on the panel last night, pointed out that the Conservatives had not met their own migration target for the past seven years.
But Davis attempted to blame the UK’s membership of the EU as the reason why his party has been unable to meet their own election pledged.
Last month Michael Fallon admitted the Conservatives had not calculated how much it will cost the exchequer to reduce immigration by two thirds. The Tory manifesto pledged to reduce net migration to below 100,000 a year.
During an interview on Newsnight, the Defence Secretary repeatedly refused to say the pledge was a “policy” and instead continued to call it an “aim” and an “ambition”.