top of page

We'll prioritise economic requirements above pledge to limit immigration numbers, say ministers.

Ministers have indicated that they would prioritise the requirements of the economy above a pledge made by the Conservative platform to reduce overall numbers of legal migrants, but Rishi Sunak has declined to specify what that figure may be.

Experts believe that the annual net migration total might exceed 700,000, which will lead to harsh criticism for the British prime minister on Thursday.

It has been made apparent this week that Sunak and the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, are willing to absorb political and media criticism in the sake of economic development and the filling of holes in the job market.

During a visit to Japan on Friday, Sunak acknowledged that the current rate of legal immigration to Britain was "too high," but he declined to specify a reduction goal or an anticipated start date.

When the Office of National Statistics releases migration projections for all of 2022, the situation will to a head. The Conservatives campaigned for the 2019 election on a platform of reducing net migration, which stood at 226,000 at the time.

The BBC questioned Sunak on what constitutes a "acceptable level," and Sunak said, "I don't want to put a precise number on it." He said that it would be "situation and time dependent" and rely on the state of the economy.

A huge inflow of non-EU nationals, such as refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan and persons escaping the civil rights crackdown in Hong Kong, has replaced the decline in net migration from the EU since Brexit, when Britain "took back control" of its migration policy.

However, policymakers have made a conscious decision to promote immigration, as shown by a pledge to raise the number of foreign students from 470,000 in 2017/18 to 600,000 by 2030.

Despite home secretary Suella Braverman's best efforts, that quota has been consistently surpassed thanks to the efforts of education secretary Gillian Keegan and hunt.

One of Keegan's supporters put the number at 600,000 as a goal, rather than a cap. The education minister has often argued that welcoming overseas students is beneficial for Britain's economy, research, and "soft power."

However, Keegan has agreed to a rule that prevents postgraduate students enrolled in one-year programmes from bringing dependents to the UK with them.

This year, Braverman gave his blessing to a plan that would open the door for additional foreign construction workers to enter Britain under the "shortage occupation" programme.

The government's Migration Advisory Committee is now conducting a study to see if more industries, such as retail or hospitality, should be added to the list, and will report their findings in the fall.

Hunt, addressing at a convention of the British Chambers of Commerce this week, said he was open to the idea of expanding the list.

"Since we left the single market, we have been pragmatic when it comes to immigration requirements," he added. "So, for instance, we included care homes on the shortage occupation list, as well as some sectors of the construction industry, and we will continue to talk to all of you about where there are temporary challenges."

Hunt claims his spring budget was aimed at re-integrating the long-term unemployed, stay-at-home parents, and older employees into the British workforce, but shortages are still expected to plague the industry.

Braverman's comments this week that Britain should be a "high-skilled, high wage economy" but should also train its own fruit pickers revealed the difficulties in government over the subject.

But in the same week, Sunak informed a group of farmers at Downing Street that, in addition to the 45,000 visas previously approved, another 10,000 will be made available for the agricultural industry.


bottom of page