Rishi Sunak says legal immigration to the UK is “too high,” but he won’t say how much.
The prime minister informed that he was “considering a range of options” to reduce legal immigration.
He has been under pressure to fulfill the 2019 Conservative manifesto pledge to reduce net migration levels.
Next Thursday, fresh data on net migration to the United Kingdom is anticipated.
Chris Mason at the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Mr. Sunak refused to elaborate on the government’s legal migration plan.
Mr. Sunak also declined to “speculate” on whether he would bar some international students from bringing dependents to the UK.
“What I would say is that we’re considering a variety of options to help reduce the number of legal immigrants. And we’ll talk more about this in the future,” he said.
The Conservatives committed to curb the 226,000 migrants entering the UK in their 2019 platform.
In the year ending June 2022, however, the number exceeded 500,000.
The majority of the increase in migration to the United Kingdom has come from outside the European Union, including 170,000 Ukrainians fleeing civil conflict and 76,000 British citizens from Hong Kong under a resettlement program. Approximately 270,000 individuals immigrated to the United Kingdom for educational purposes.
The Office for National Statistics, which compiles the data, speculated that the removal of travel restrictions following the pandemic may have prompted a rise in the number of pupils, but added that it was too soon to tell if the increase represented a long-term trend.
“The numbers are too high, and we want to reduce them,” Mr. Sunak said, adding that the figures were higher in 2022 due to the influx of Ukrainian refugees into the United Kingdom, of which the country should be “proud.”
Asked what an “acceptable level” of legal immigration would be, Mr. Sunak responded that it would “depend on how the economy is doing at any given time and the circumstances we face.”
“Therefore, I don’t want to put a precise number on it,” he said. Adding that his top priority was combating illegal migration.
This week, Home Secretary Suella Braverman called for a reduction in immigration and advised training more Brits for jobs like truck driving and fruit picking.
Mr. Sunak now says extra seasonal fruit pickers will be allowed into the UK if needed.
While many members of his party want the prime minister to reduce net migration, some businesses have argued that doing so would be detrimental to their industries, especially during a period of low unemployment.
In an interview with the BBC’s Today program, Julian Metcalfe, CEO of the food chain Itsu, stated that the difficulty in recruiting staff was driving up prices and preventing some restaurants from opening.
“The cost, particularly for places like Itsu, is going to be very painful for all of us,” he said, urging the government to implement a two-year working visa.
Earlier this week, the prime minister used his trip to a Council of Europe meeting in Iceland to advocate for increased cooperation between the United Kingdom and the European Union regarding illegal migration.
Downing Street said that the UK and EU would fight transnational crime and people smuggling after the summit.
Anneliese Dodds, chair of the Labour Party, told that establishing a net migration target was “not sensible.”
She stated that a “properly functioning” immigration system could increase the number of individuals entering the country to fill “a short-term need for skills.”
“But in the medium and long-term, a reduction, because we would be training people in our own country – this has not occurred under the Conservatives, unfortunately.”