The Home Secretary refused to commit to the controversial Tory commitment to reduce immigration to below 100,000.
Amber Rudd explained that ending free movement meant the circumstances had changed. In 2010 David Cameron committed the Conservatives to reducing immigration to the tens of thousands which the Tories repeated in their 2015 manifesto. But today Amber Rudd indicated the Tories might row back from their long-held pledge saying the new manifesto “would not be identical”.
Earlier this year Theresa May made a personal commitment to keeping David Cameron’s 2010 pledge to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. Last month she said on a visit to Enfield in north London: “We’ve been very clear, as I was as Home Secretary for six years, that it’s important that we have net migration that is in sustainable numbers.
“We believe sustainable numbers are the tens of thousands.”
Amber Rudd has also said that she had no intention of excluding student numbers from the overall immigration target as some of her cabinet colleagues had wanted arguing that: “It’s a complete red herring”. The Home Secretary explained that with Brexit and an end to freedom of movement the situation has changed. She said: “My personal view is that we need to continue to bring immigration down I want to make sure that we do it in a way that supports businesses. We’re ending freedom of movement when we’re leaving the European Union.
“So the situation since the manifesto has changed so it’s right that we look at it again.”
Ms Rudd admitted: “Immigration is good for this country, is good for business and has been positive for the country overall and we will want to continue it.”
She also refused to commit to a so-called ‘barista visa’ which would allow young European citizens to come to Britain for two years. Ms Rudd said she had an “open mind” and that she would be talking to businesses over the summer about was “really necessary” in terms of immigration and what was “nice to have”. Ms Rudd made a clear break with cabinet colleagues by refusing to commit to taking international student numbers out of the immigration figures. Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond have spoken in favour of removing those numbers from the overall target but Amber Rudd described the argument as a “red herring”. She said they weren’t trying to keep student numbers down but “we just don’t want student courses to be used as a migration route”.
The number of international students at UK universities and colleges is currently included in the overall immigration figures. But Amber Rudd said there was no value in excluding students from the figures because when they leave or get a graduate job they are removed from the net migration numbers. She said what was essential was to get the right figures for the numbers that leave or get graduate jobs but “we’ve only started collecting the exit data since early April 2015”.
It is understood that behind the scenes some ministers have been trying to persuade the PM to drop the immigration limit from the Tory manifesto.