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All of Farage’s Reform UK pledges on immigration

The Conservatives have announced plans to cut immigration to the UK by introducing a new annual cap on visas if they win the upcoming election.

Announcing the plan on Tuesday, Rishi Sunak claimed the Tories’ current migration plan “is working” but “migration levels are still too high, so we are going further”.

“The Conservatives are the only party that is willing to take the bold action needed to cut immigration figures,” he added.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage hit back with his own pledge to reduce net migration – the difference between numbers leaving and arriving in the UK each year – to zero.

The latest figures put net migration to the UK at 685,000 in 2023, a drop from the record high of 764,000 in 2022.

As he launched his election campaign in Clacton, Essex, on Tuesday, Farage warned the Tories would pay a “big price” for their handling of immigration.

Sunak’s sharpened focus on the issue is thought to be a response to Farage’s announcement that he would stand for Reform UK in the upcoming election on an immigration-heavy ticket.

Here are all of the Conservative and Reform UK pledges on immigration:

Conservative plans for legal migration

The Tories have announced that they would introduce a cap on the number of worker and family visas available to migrants each year.

The cap would be reduced annually in line with recommendations by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

Under the scheme, parliament would have a direct role in setting levels of migration, with MPs having a vote on the number.

The cap would aim to reduce overall net migration levels, although Sunak refused to specify an exact number to which it would fall.

Home Secretary James Cleverly argued the policy would balance “the benefits and cost” of migration.

Last year, Cleverly announced a visa crackdown that banned social care workers from bringing dependants to the UK and increased the salary thresholds for skilled worker visas.

The changes, which came into effect on 4 April this year, saw the skilled worker threshold rise from £26,200 to £38,700 and the threshold for family visas increase from £18,600 to £29,000. The family visa threshold is expected to rise to £38,700 in 2025.

The party also replaced the shortage occupation list with a new “immigration salary list” to stop employers paying migrants less to plug shortages.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 7: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conducts a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room, as he gives an update on the plan to "stop the boats" and illegal migration on December 7, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by James Manning - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Prime Minister’s promise to ‘stop the boats’ and reduce illegal migration to the UK has endured the most tumultuous journey of any of Mr Sunak’s five key pledges (Photo: James Manning/Getty Images)

Conservative plans for illegal migration

A central tenent of the Tories plan to tackle illegal migration is the Rwanda asylum policy whereby those arriving illegally in the UK would be deported to the East African country for processing and resettlement.

The policy was designed as a “deterrent” to dissuade migrants from attempting to reach the UK in small boats under the Conservative “stop the boats” campaign.

However, since first being proposed in 2022, the policy has been repeatedly stymied – with the European Court of Human Rights issuing last-minute injunctions to stop the first flight taking off in 2022, and more recently the Supreme Court ruling the policy illegal in November 2023.

In 2024, the Government passed the Safety of Rwanda Act and established a new treaty with Rwanda to combat future legal challenges.

Flights were scheduled to take off sometime in early July, however Sunak has since confirmed that no flights will take off before the election.

A human rights charity and a union have launched fresh legal action against the scheme.

Reform UK plans for legal migration

Farage said the UK cannot continue with an “exploding population” and pledged that his party would attempt to reduce “net migration to zero”.

Reform has set out a series of “critical reforms” to be accomplished in the first 100 days of entering Downing Street in order to curb immigration.

One plan is to “freeze non-essential immigration” and employ “smart” immigration to target those with essential skills, such as doctors, nurses and “successful business people”.

Newly appointed leader of Britain's right-wing populist party, Reform UK, and the party's parliamentary candidate for Clacton, Nigel Farage, addresses supporters during his general election campaign launch in Clacton-on-Sea, eastern England, on June 4, 2024. Nigel Farage on Monday said he would stand as a candidate for the anti-immigration Reform UK party in Britain's general election next month, after initially ruling out running. "I have changed my mind... I am going to stand," Farage, 60, told a news conference. He will seek election on July 4 in the fiercely pro-Brexit seat of Clacton, southeast England. (Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Nigel Farage campaigning in Clacton (Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP)

When pressed on the meaning of “non-essential” immigration, Mr Farage defined it as “unskilled labour”. He said that those currently eligible for skilled worker visas, including teachers, paramedics and veterinarians, would still be allowed but in limited numbers.

Mr Farage said there was currently a “total abuse of the system” and that coming to the UK on a work visa was different to being allowed to stay and bring dependants.

Reform aims to restrict families and dependants moving to the UK with international students. Under the proposal to “restrict student dependants”, only international students with essential skills would be allowed to remain in the UK once study finishes.

Reform UK plans for illegal migration

Reform UK has also promised to “stop the boats” within 100 days of coming to power with a six point plan.

This includes recognising small boats crossing the Channel as a “national security threat”; leaving the European Convention on Human Rights; offshoring the processing of illegal arrivals; establishing a new department of immigration; allowing “zero illegal immigrants” to resettle in the UK; and a plan to “pick up migrants out of boats and take back to France”.

On Tuesday, Farage claimed that the UK cannot deport migrants anymore “because of the European Court of Human Rights” and said that getting “Britain’s sovereignty back” was top of his agenda.

Reform has also put forward proposals to process asylum seeker claims in British Overseas Territories, deport foreign criminals immediately after a prison sentence ends, and “stop the illegal working scandal” of “undocumented, illegal labour that undermines British workers” with penalties for companies and directors.

However, Farage shed some uncertainty on Reform’s policy to offshore the processing of asylum seeker claims, suggesting “it’s not entirely practical”, in an interview on Tuesday.

Election 2024

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are back out on the campaign trail – and take part in the first leader’s head-to-head debate on ITV on Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, i‘s general election live blog is the go-to place for 2024 general election coverage.

The Tories have announced proposed changes to gender laws, but the focus has been on Nigel Farage following his shock move to stand as an MP and become leader of Reform UK. Not long after that announcement, the Tories revealed proposals for a new immigration cap.

On migration, Labour has said it will be prepared to process asylum seekers abroad. In London, their former leader Jeremy Corbyn, now standing as an independent candidate, has a fight on his hands to keep his supporters from switching to Starmer.

Got a question for our politics experts? Email [email protected] or tweet us @theipaper during the first live leaders’ debate and it could be answered by Jane Merrick or Hugo Gye.

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