Lib Dem policies will not increase immigration, says Davey

Sir Ed Davey has insisted the Liberal Democrats would bring immigration down, rejecting claims some of their policies would see the figure rise.

In an interview with Sky News, the Lib Dem leader said the rise in legal immigration since 2019 was “a massive broken promise by the Conservatives” that had led to “disillusionment in politics”.

He said: “Since we left the EU, immigration has more than doubled, completely against what the Conservatives and the Brexiteers promised.

“So the question is, how do you bring it down?”

The Liberal Democrat manifesto contains no explicit pledge to reduce overall migration numbers, instead promising a “fair, effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect”.

Sir Ed Davey with a group of Lib Dem supporters
The Liberal Democrat manifesto promised a ‘fair, effective immigration system’ but made no explicit commitment on numbers (Lucy North/PA)

This includes policies on replacing the salary threshold for work visas with “a more flexible merit-based system”, expanding the youth mobility scheme to the EU and reversing the recent increase to the income threshold for family visas.

But in his interview on Wednesday, Sir Ed denied that these policies would lead to higher migration.

He added that increasing the minimum wage for care workers to £2 above the general minimum wage would encourage British people “who are currently working in, say, an Amazon warehouse or a supermarket” to enter the sector, removing the need for foreign labour.

He said the Conservatives “refuse to pay people properly” and had “issued hundreds of thousands of healthcare visas” instead.

Asked whether his party’s promise to rejoin the European Single Market was a serious pledge or just the “ultimate aim”, Sir Ed said the “poisoned” relationship between Britain and the EU meant such a move would “take time”.

He said: “We think you’re going to have to go through four stages to rebuild a relationship with Europe, it’s been so damaged by the Conservatives.”

Sir Ed also denied that his party’s plan to build 380,000 homes a year without touching the green belt was “another cake-and-eat-it policy”.

He said: “I don’t think we actually have to (build on the green belt), because there’s so much brownfield land out there that really is available.”

The Lib Dem leader argued that the Conservatives had followed a “developer-led” approach that “leads to some of the wrong houses being built in the wrong places”, while his party would use a “community-led approach” that provided infrastructure along with affordable homes.