Home Secretary Theresa May has been forced to admit that the Government is “unlikely” to meet its target to drastically reduce immigration.
Early in this Parliament, Prime Minister David Cameron had made the bold commitment to reduce net migration to tens of thousands by the time of the next election.
As recently as the spring, Mr Cameron said that the target was still “perfectly achievable.”
But now, with just six months remaining until polling day, cabinet colleagues have been increasingly cagey about whether the Government was still on track to deliver on its promise.
A fortnight ago, Mrs May looked distinctly flustered when asked about the target during an interview on Radio 4. Back then she claimed that Mr Cameron’s original statement had been an aim rather than a promise.
And in an appearance on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday, the Home Secretary came clean and conceded it was unlikely that the “aim” would be met.
She laid the blame at the door of the EU’s “freedom of movement” laws and said that the current system would need to be overhauled.
“It is important to us, as we look ahead to negotiating a new relationship with the EU, that we put free movement as one of those key issues that we are going to negotiate on and we are going to deal with,” she told the current affairs programme.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper pounced on the admission and said it was evidence that the Government target was “in tatters.”
“The Prime Minister promised ‘no ifs, no buts’ to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands, and Theresa May has spent four years claiming she was on track,” said Mrs May’s opposite number.
“Net migration is now more than twice her target and rising – and she has finally been forced to admit her target is ‘unlikely’.”
According to the latest figures, dating from August, annual net migration into the UK still stands at 243,000.