Rising immigration 'undeniably undermines' Brexit promises, warn Red Wall MPs

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Priti Patel - Danny Lawson
Priti Patel - Danny Lawson

Priti Patel has been warned over the “drastic increase” in net immigration, as Red Wall MPs say it “undeniably undermines” Brexit promises.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, over two dozen Conservative politicians have sounded the alarm over data suggesting net immigration for this year “could be higher than any in recent history”.

The group of MPs highlight figures which show that work visas are up 25 per cent to 239,987, family visas are up 49 per cent to 280,776 and student visas are up 52 per cent to 432,729.

“Of course, there are exceptional circumstances regarding Ukraine and Hong Kong, but the reality of such a drastic increase undeniably undermines our promise to reduce immigration numbers,” they say.

“As you have grasped, mass immigration only pays lip service to the concept of ‘control’. True control balances any need for high-skilled immigration with building a sustainable domestic workforce and the inevitable consequences of mass migration on societal cohesion, our housing and job markets, wage suppression and pressure on public services.”

MPs praise Rwanda deal

The letter, organised by Sir John Hayes who chairs the influential Common Sense Group, counts several Red Wall Tory MPs among its signatories.

Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield, Nick Fletcher, the MP for Don Valley and Marco Longhi, the MP for Dudley North, have all signed the letter alongside their fellow 2019-intake colleagues representing Leigh, Stoke-on-Trent North and Stockton South.

Other signatories include David Jones, the former Brexit minister and Bob Blackman, the joint secretary of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers.

They praise the Rwanda deal as "exactly the kind of radical, but rational and proportionate, policy that will get to grips with our dysfunctional asylum system".

The MPs have told the Home Secretary that they “fully support” this policy, adding that “control of this kind is essential”.

Watch: Rwandan and UK ministers defend asylum seeker plans in Geneva following criticism

But they point out that the vote for Brexit was a “resounding declaration from the British people that they wanted to take back control” of the immigration system.

The group of MPs conclude by saying that the British people understand the “dire consequences” that will ensue when immigration gets out of control. "It is our duty to do right by the promise we made to them,” they say.

While tough on illegal immigration - with controversial plans to send Channel migrants to Rwanda on a one-way ticket - the Government has relaxed rules for foreign skilled migrants and students with sponsored jobs or university places in the UK.

A recent analysis suggests that more foreign nationals will come to the UK this year than before Brexit.

The number of non-EU workers, students and family relatives granted visas has already increased by more than 50 per cent to more than 840,000 since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.

Lower salary and skill thresholds for foreign workers, the widening list of "shortage" jobs and the end of restrictions on students staying on to work after graduating have contributed to the surge, according to British Future, a think tank specialising in immigration and integration.

The numbers this year will be swelled by Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion – estimated at around 50,000 – and up to 150,000 Hong Kongers coming to the UK on British National Overseas visas.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Leaving the EU has given us control over our own immigration system. The new points-based system delivers on a key Government commitment to put in place an immigration system which works in our national interest.

“However, the rise in dangerous Channel crossings is unacceptable – they risk lives and hinder our ability to help refugees who come via safe and legal routes. The Nationality and Borders Act will fix this broken system by protecting those in genuine need while cracking down on evil people smuggling gangs.

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