Rishi Sunak declined to reaffirm Boris Johnson’s promise to reduce overall immigration levels in the Tory platform.
The prime minister declared he wanted net migration to decline but would not uphold the Conservatives’ election-year promise.
Instead, Mr. Sunak asserted that voters were focused on stopping illegal immigration, including as tiny boat crossings, on Wednesday, saying he had “inherited some numbers” regarding migration.
In response to the home secretary’s request to decrease immigration to the UK, Jeremy Hunt said the government would take a “pragmatic” approach to immigration. This is when he refused to make the commitment.
Ministers would use migrant labor in a “sensible” manner, the chancellor said.
However, he asserted that over the long run, British workers would fill economic shortfalls.
He made his remarks in response to Suella Braverman, the home secretary, who stated that the government “needs to get overall immigration numbers down.”
She said that Britain could train enough of its own fruit pickers to replace any shortfalls that growers claimed were leaving them in a difficult situation.
Mr. Sunak did assert, though, that he would permit more seasonal fruit pickers to enter the UK if necessary.
The 2019 manifesto stated that “overall numbers will come down” as the Government restricts free movement in the wake of Brexit.
Migration levels were 226,000 at the time, and it is anticipated that when the most recent Office for National Statistics numbers are released, that number may have treble.
Speaking to reporters on his plane to Japan for the G7 summit, Mr. Sunak said he was “committed to bringing down legal migration” but would not stick to the goal.
“I’ve inherited some numbers, I want to bring the numbers down,” the prime minister said.
Pressed again if he stands by the figure, Mr Sunak said: “I’ve said I do want to bring legal migration down.
“I think illegal migration is undoubtedly the country’s priority, and you can see all the work I’m putting into that.”
The prime minister is coming under increased pressure on immigration from inside his own party due to concerns that data due out next week may show net migration at historic highs.
According to Mr. Hunt, the decision to leave the European Union, in which immigration played a significant role, was made in order to “change our economic model towards being a high skill and a high wage economy” and get rid of “unlimited, low-skilled migrants.”
But he added that immigrants would still have a role to play in addition to policies to help the unemployed find employment.
“What I’m trying to do is to make sure that our businesses can find the labour that they need in order to make sure that recruitment isn’t a problem,” he said.
Consequently, “we will, at the margins, always be pragmatic” with regards to regions where there are labor shortages.
However, he went on to say that there would be 2.7 million more people employed in the UK if its employment rate were comparable to that of the Netherlands.
“So what we need to do is to tap into the incredible potential that we have at home, at the same time as we make that journey to be sensible and pragmatic about the immigration requirements,” he said.
Additionally, Mr. Hunt emphasized that the government was “completely united” in its choice of strategy.
This week, Ms. Braverman demanded that Britain become “less dependent on low-skilled foreign labour” and asserted that domestic employees could fill any employment gaps.
Staffing issues are being reported in a number of important industries, including agricultural, food processing, and logistics. The home secretary claimed the government “needs to get overall immigration numbers down” when speaking to a conference on Monday in Westminster.