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Sunak pledges immigration cap amid new Farage threat to Tories

Legal immigration to the UK will be capped by Conservatives if the party wins the election, Rishi Sunak has promised.

The Prime Minister’s announcement appeared designed to outflank Labour’s own pledge to cut legal immigration, without setting a target or limit, and to counter Nigel Farage’s U-turn in deciding to stand for Reform in the 4 July general election.

But Sunak also refused to put a number on where he wants immigration to get down to after a net migration to the UK of 685,000 last year, a drop on the record 764,000 that came to the country in 2022.

Instead, the Tories will ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to provide a recommendation for level of the annual cap.

The Government will then consider the advice and put forward a proposal to MPs for a vote.

The MAC will be told its objective in setting a figure is to get migration down to sustainable levels, and for levels to fall year-on-year over the next five years, and that they must consider both the costs and benefits of immigration.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 03: New Reform UK leader Nigel Farage announces that he will stand during the upcoming general election during a press conference on June 3, 2024 in London, England. Nigel Farage announces he is to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming General Election as he takes over as leader of The Reform Party from Richard Tice. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
New Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will stand during the upcoming general election (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty)

The announcement appeared timed to respond to Mr Farage making the shock decision to become leader of Reform and stand for election in Clacton while fighting an immigration-focused campaign, having previously said he would not make an eighth attempt to become an MP.

Bloomberg also reported that Sunak’s team was considering hardening the Tories’ position on the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR), which blocked the first attempt at a deportation flight as part of the beleaguered Rwanda asylum scheme, with Reform taking tougher positions on migration.

Sunak said: “We have taken bold action to cut the number of people coming to this country. The plan is working but migration levels are still too high, so we are going further.

“Labour’s migrant amnesty will make the UK a global magnet for illegal immigrants and they have no plan to reduce net migration, while we have a clear plan to stop the boats and put a legal cap on numbers.

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

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “This is a meaningless announcement from a Tory party which has trebled net migration since the last election despite promising to bring it down.

“All they are doing now is rehashing failed announcements from David Cameron and Theresa May, while doing nothing to tackle the skills shortages and their failures in the economy and immigration system which have pushed net migration up. Why should anyone take seriously a promise the Tories have already repeatedly broken?

“Labour’s plan to bring net migration down will link the immigration system with new mandatory training and workforce plans for British workers, and stop rogue employers hiring from abroad.”

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