Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has dismissed previous Tory targets to limit legal net migration to the tens of thousands.
Jenrick said previous numerical targets - namely David Cameron’s pledge to limit net migration to 100,000 a year - are “not helpful”.
This comes as net migration has reached a record high.
Last month, it was revealed the net figure - which is the difference between the number of people moving to the UK and the number leaving - for 2022 was 606,000: up from 488,000 in 2021.
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Rishi Sunak has said the numbers are “too high” and that he wants to bring them down, but has refused to put a number on this.
However, when questioned by Sky News last month, he pledged to bring migration down to the number he “inherited” - which was 504,000 - upon taking office in October last year.
Jenrick was asked on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme if it was “remotely realistic” the government would ever bring the number down to 100,000 as previously said.
Jenrick initially refused to address that figure: “We’ve said, and the prime minister reiterated this during the week, that we want to see net migration come down. Net migration is far too high today.”
But asked again about Cameron’s 100,000 pledge, Jenrick said: “I don’t think that targets like that are particularly helpful because migration is an extremely challenging space where behaviours are constantly changing.”
Sir Keir Starmer's Labour has also called for a cut to migration numbers. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said last month: “We’ve said we think that the net migration figures should come down." However, like Sunak and Jenrick, she would not provide a specific figure.
A 2021 study by the British Future think tank showed more Britons are positive about immigration (46%) as opposed to negative (28%).
And the Institute for Public Policy Research, which describes itself as the UK’s “pre-eminent progressive think tank”, said: “The government should beware knee-jerk reactions to these figures [of 606,000 a year], given they reflect a unique set of circumstances, including a series of humanitarian crises and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic."