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Braverman insists it’s ‘not racist’ to want to cut immigration amid Cabinet battle over foreign workers in UK

Suella Braverman will on Monday argue it is “not racist” to want to cut immigration as she argues for tighter restrictions on foreign workers coming to the UK.

The Home Secretary’s intervention will increase pressure on the Prime Minister to get tougher on migration.

It is the latest salvo in a Cabinet battle over acceptable levels of immigration, with official figures later this month expected to show it hit record levels in 2022 despite the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge to slash numbers.

i has been told that official figures to be announced on 25 May are expected to show net migration hit 700,000 to 800,000 last year, a rise from 500,000.

Ms Braverman’s speech to the National Conservatism (NatCon) conference comes days after i revealed that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan successfully watered down a planned immigration crackdown on foreign students after stressing the economic harm that tougher restrictions would inflict.

However, the Home Office is still expected to announce a ban on one-year foreign masters’ degree students being allowed to bring family members with them to the UK.

And Mrs Braverman wants to go further, with a goal of removing HGV drivers, butchers and fruit pickers from shortage occupation exemptions, which make it easier for them to come to the UK under the post-Brexit points-based immigration system.

Her tougher approach to legal immigration appears at odds with Mr Hunt, who has said foreign workers will be “very important” in improving economic growth in the short to medium term.

Speaking at the right-wing NatCon on Monday, Mrs Braverman will say: “I voted and campaigned for Brexit because I wanted Britain to control migration. So that we all have a say on what works for our country.

“High-skilled workers support economic growth. Fact. But we need to get overall immigration numbers down. And we mustn’t forget how to do things for ourselves. There is no good reason why we can’t train up enough HGV drivers, butchers or fruit pickers.

“Brexit enables us to build a high-skilled, high wage economy that is not dependent on low-skilled foreign labour. That was our 2019 manifesto pledge and what we must deliver.”

Following a report that lawyers and faith organisations have complained to the Bar Standards Board about Mrs Braverman, claiming she has breached its code of conduct with “racist sentiments and discriminatory narratives”, the Home Secretary – a qualified barrister – will also be unapologetic about her desire to bring immigration down.

“It’s not xenophobic to say that mass and rapid migration is unsustainable in terms of housing supply, service and community relations,” she will say.

“Nor is it bigoted to say that too many people come here illegally and claim asylum, and we have insufficient accommodation for them.

“I’m not embarrassed to say that I love Britain. No true conservative is. It’s not racist for anyone, ethnic minority or otherwise, to want to control our borders.”

Her speech will come as a senior MP expressed hope that the NatCon conference, which will also be addressed by senior Tories such as Communities Secretary Michael Gove and former Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, will persuade Rishi Sunak to take a tougher approach in areas such as immigration.

Discussing how to win the next election, the source told i: “You cut immigration radically, you bang up more people in jail, you arrest people and lock them up who glue themselves to the road, you champion Britain’s history and heritage. It’s not rocket science.

“Rishi’s stance on the [small] boats [in the Channel] is important… but the Government is slightly more insecure than they need to be about some of these things.”

On Sunday, Energy Secretary Grant Shapps attempted to play downplay concerns about the net migration figures, insisting refugee arrivals from Ukraine and Hong Kong had added perhaps as many as 300,000 to the numbers.

He told the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme on Sky News: “This country has had a big heart, we’ve opened the country for Ukrainian refugees, for British nationals from Hong Kong.

“Take those two groups alone and it’s well over 300,000 of these numbers. And then of course we’ve had people from Syria and elsewhere. So actually, I’m rather proud of our record.”

He said Brexit has offered the UK “control” over its own immigration policies, as he was repeatedly pushed on whether ministers were now relaxed about immigration to the country.

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