Published On: Sat, May 11th, 2024
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Former immigration minister warning over UK mass migration | Politics | News

Rishi Sunak should use his “precious time” left in power before the election to drive net migration down towards the tens of thousands, former immigration minister Robert Jenrick has urged.

Mr Jenrick warned that the “cycle of broken promises simply cannot continue”.

He made waves last week when he published a 36 recommendations to overhaul the immigration system, including splitting up the Home Office and limiting access to visas.

His intervention has strengthened expectations he will run for the Tory leadership if there is a vacancy after the election.

Mr Jenrick told the Sunday Express: “As offensive and dangerous as illegal migration is, mass legal migration is having a bigger impact on the British public because the numbers are so much greater. It’s fuelling the housing crisis, suppressing wages and stifling much-need productivity gains.”

Net migration – the difference between the number entering and leaving the UK – hit a record 745,000 in 2022. Last year the figure was 672,000, with 1.2 million people coming into the country and 508,000 exiting.

This contrasts with the pledge in David Cameron’s 2010 manifesto to bring net migration down to “tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands”.

Mr Jenrick said: “I resigned when I believed I couldn’t influence things in government any further because the cycle of broken promises simply cannot continue. The Government must finally deliver the highly controlled, highly selective post-Brexit system voters were promised and reduce net migration back to 10,000s, which is the historical norm.”

Exclusive polling by WeThink shows that voters are divided when it comes to migration.

A narrow majority (52 per cent) think net migration is too high but 41 per cent says it is “about right” and seven per cent claim it is “too low”.

When asked what would be an appropriate level, four out of 10 people (39 per cent) said it should be below the tens of thousands – with 13 per cent supporting the original target of bringing it down to the tens of thousands.

However, nearly one in five (18 per cent) wanted net migration to stay at current levels and one in 10 said it should go even higher.

The issue is one of the starkest dividing lines in UK politics. Sixty-five per cent of Conservative supporters and 82 per cent of those who expect to vote for Reform UK think levels are too high. This is the case for just 42 per cent of likely Labour voters, 53 per cent of whom think levels are “about right”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer last week pledged to scrap the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers who have come to the UK illegally to Rwanda for processing “straight away” if he wins power.

Mr Jenrick pressed for swift action to “fix our broken immigration system,” saying: “I urge the Government to use the precious time in office before the general election to deliver these changes that the UK desperately wants and needs.’

Many Conservative MPs who fear for their seats also want bold action to tackle both legal and illegal immigration. This has intensified in the wake of the local election results which saw the Tories lose 474 councillors and respected Conservative and former John Lewis boss Andy Street ousted as mayor of the West Midlands.

A Red Wall MP said: “The working class has checked out. They have left the building.

“Unless something dramatic happens now it’s over.”

Former security minister Sir John Hayes also pushed for action to limit the numbers coming into the country.

He said: “Many things matter but nothing matters more than immigration,” adding: “We cannot grow our population at this rate and maintain the wellbeing of all Britons.”

The WeThink polling found 35 per cent of voters thought immigration would likely increase under a Labour Government while 14 per cent expected it would go down and 29 per cent thought it would stay the same.

A Home Office source said: “In the Home Secretary’s first weeks in his role he and the PM put in measures to cut legal migration by hundreds of thousands, to sign a treaty with Rwanda and laid the legislation to make that partnership work. We are already seeing the deterrent effect that is having, and have a clear timetable towards flights, having secured a safe destination for people with no right to be here to be sent, if they can’t be sent home.

“Under our Small Boat Operational Command that brings together agencies to break the business model of the criminal people smuggling gangs we have, with many international partners broken up gangs, prosecuted gang members and disrupted money flows and the supply of boats and engines.

“Labour has no plan. They would scrap most of our tools to tackle over high immigration and try to rebrand what already exists.

“Our focus in the coming months is to keep delivering on our plan, and relentlessly expose to the British people that Labour don’t have one, and as a consequence they would make the UK the asylum capital of the world.”

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