Conservative immigration minister Brandon Lewis today refused over five times to promise the government would meet its migration target by 2022.
Theresa May’s general election manifesto committed her to reducing annual immigration to below 100,000 people per year.
“It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades.”
But quizzed on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme this morning, Lewis would only say the target was a “long term aim” to get migration to “sustainable levels”.
Lewis was asked whether it was reasonable for voters to think that the manifesto commitment was one that would be met before the end of this parliament in 2022.
However despite repeated questions, Lewis said he would not set an “arbitrary year”.
During the election campaign, George Osborne claimed “none” of May’s senior ministers supported the immigration target.
“All would be glad to see the back of something that has caused the Conservative Party such public grief,” he said.
In the same interview today, Lewis also said freedom of movement would end in March 2019 - when the UK leaves the EU.
His comments came as Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced a major assessment of the “costs and benefits” of EU immigration to Britain - over a year after the Brexit vote.
The committee will be asked to report back by September next year - seven months before the scheduled date for Britain’s formal departure.