Whichever candidate takes the keys to Number 10 later this month, the change of Conservative leader and Prime Minister looks set to mark the end of the net migration target.
As politics move on, those looking to advocate for a fresh approach to immigration must do so too – and that includes business voices seeking access to the skills and labour that they need.
The net migration target embodied the failures of migration policy under Theresa May. It was all about the numbers – and the numbers refused to budge. Net migration was 256,000 when May entered the Home Office in 2010. As she announced her departure from Downing Street, it was 255,000. By the end, as cabinet colleagues refused to commit to keeping the target, May was almost alone in reiterating this much-broken promise, one that could never really be kept.
With May gone it seems inevitable that her successor, not wishing to own a failure, will let the target go with her. Frontrunner Boris Johnson has proposed an ‘Australian-style’ points-based system that distinguishes between different flows of migration, combining control with openness to skills – an approach that would be incompatible with the ‘one-size-fits-all’ target. Jeremy Hunt has been clearer still, stating that he does not support the ‘tens of thousands’ target and would also review the proposed £30,000 salary threshold for skilled migrants.
The current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has been yet more emphatic, telling a British Future event that “I think it’s nonsense to set a target that you know you can never meet, the tens of thousands…it should be led by what you think the country needs.” New ICM research for British Future, published in a new report today, ‘Immigration after May: What should the new Prime Minister change?’ finds 72% of Conservative voters in favour of replacing the net migration target with separate targets for different types of immigration.