Boris Johnson And Jeremy Hunt Told To Scrap Theresa May's Immigration Target

Two former Tory immigration ministers back plan.
PA Wire/PA Images

Theresa May’s successor has been told by two former Tory immigration ministers to ditch her commitment to keeping net migration below 100,000.

James Brokenshire, a close ally of the outgoing prime minister, and Mark Harper have both endorsed a new report from the centre-right think-tank Onward.

Brokenshire, the current communities secretary, said Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt must “look again at our approach to controlling migration and the targets we set”.

Harper, who has served as Tory chief whip and also mounted a long-shot bid for the leadership, said voters were right to think politicians “do not have their hands on the wheel when it comes to immigration policy”.

Both men served as immigration minister during David Cameron’s time as prime minister.

May has remained committed to the target first proposed by Cameron - which has never been reached - as home secretary and prime minister.

A recent poll revealed neither Johnson or Hunt were trusted by voters on immigration.

Both leadership candidates have said indicated they would scrap the target

Onward said the 2010 target should be replaced with a detailed and long-term sustainable immigration plan.

The plan should include a commitment to reduce low and medium-skilled immigration over time.

A new Office for Migration Responsibility would act as a watchdog to monitor the government’s record on the issue.

According to the think-tank, net migration to the UK would have been 1.4 million lower between 2010 and 2018 had the pledge to reduce net migration to below 100,000 a year been met.

Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said a Labour government would scrap the target.

“You can have numerical targets for immigration. Or you can have one based on our obligations and needs. You can’t have both,” she said.

“The government’s numerical targets have never been met and never will be.”

Will Tanner, the director of Onward, said: “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 confront the trade-offs involved in immigration, and holds government’s feet to the fire for delivering on its pledges.”