Responding to publication of new immigration figures from the Office of National Statistics, showing net migration slightly down on the last quarter at 323,000 in the year ending September 2015, British Future Director Sunder Katwala said:
“When the PM and Home Secretary are both relieved to see net migration at over 300,000, it shows how far removed from reality the sub-100,000 target really is.
“It’s no wonder the public don’t trust the Government to get a grip on immigration.
“It means that immigration will be a big issue in the EU referendum – and neither side is being honest with voters about what they can and can’t do about it.
“If the PM and Home Secretary keep saying we can stay in, keep free movement and hit the target, nobody will believe them.
“Leave voices say they will cut immigration significantly – but at the same time say a post-Brexit Britain will welcome more Commonwealth migrants. When non-EU migration is over 200,000 a year, they can’t have both.
“The Government needs to work hard to rebuild trust in its competence to manage immigration. It should start with a long, hard look at the net migration target – what could be done to meet it and what the impacts would be. Targets aren’t bad in themselves, but they have to be grounded in reality.”
Together with the Institute of Directors, British Future has called for a ‘Comprehensive Immigration Review’ to establish what policies could actually be put in place to achieve the ‘tens of thousands’ net migration target, and what their impact would be on the economy, culture and society of the UK.
They say the Prime Minister and Home Secretary should ask the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the expert body, to set out the best possible plans and their likely impacts. These could then be put to the general public through town-hall meetings across the country and a ‘citizens’ jury’ to reflect public opinion, together with public hearings involving key ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ stakeholders in the immigration debate.