The Government’s refusal to scrap its net migration target is the “definition of madness” a leading think tank claimed today after figures showed it had again missed its goal.
The Office for National Statistics today revealed net migration to the UK in the 12 months to March was 327,000.
While that does represent a drop of 9,000 on the year before, it is still well above the Government’s target of getting the figure below 100,000.
The Institute for Public Policy Research was scathing in its assessment of the policy, and Phoebe Griffith, associate director migration, integration and communities, said: “They say the definition of madness is repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. Yet the Government continue to stand by a net migration target that neither the public nor many ministers have confidence in.
“The public said they wanted to take back control on immigration, but Theresa May and Amber Rudd can’t get to grips with the issue with such a blunt measure.
“Having a net migration target is like having a target for the number of sunny days in a year; it’s not going to change the weather by itself.
“The Government need to set individual targets for high-skilled and low-skilled migrants, and design policy to balance public concerns with the needs of different sectors of our economy.”
David Cameron pledged to get net migration below 100,000 in 2010, with a “no ifs, not buts” promise.
Since then, the Government has missed the target every year.
Of the 633,000 people who came to the UK over the 12 month period, 268,000 were from the EU, while 282,000 were non-EU citizens.
Immigration was one of the key battlegrounds in the EU Referendum debate, with those campaigning for Leave arguing the UK could “take back control” of its borders if it quit the European project.
A survey released today by think tank British Future showed that 44% did not believe the UK’s Leave vote would mean the Government hit its migration target.
Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, told HuffPost UK: “Restricting EU immigration after Brexit would not, on its own, be enough to meet the ‘tens of thousands’ net migration target - because even with EU net migration of zero the target would still not be met.
“If the target is ever met it probably won’t be a result of Government immigration policy but would be more likely to be a result of economic factors.”
According to the ONS, work remains the most common reason for long-term immigration (303,000), with 176,000 of these coming with a definite job to go to and 127,000 looking for employment.
Nicola White, Head of International Migration Statistics at the ONS, said: “Net migration remains at record levels although the recent trend is broadly flat. The influx of Romanians and Bulgarians has also reached a new high, although that’s off-set by falls in non-EU immigration and from other central and eastern European countries.
“Work remains the main reason for migration, followed by study which has seen a significant fall in the number of people coming to the UK for education.
“It’s important to remember that these figures only go up to the end of March and do not cover the period following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.”