Tories vow to cut immigration overall as they ‘take back control’ of borders

By Catherine Wylie, PA

The Conservatives have pledged to cut immigration “overall” as the party announced a range of measures to “take back control” – just days after Boris Johnson appeared to row back from the promise.

If the Tories are returned to power on December 12, the “vast majority” of migrants will need a job offer to come to the UK to work, regardless of where they are from in the world.

The party said there will be a small number of exceptions, including high-skilled scientists and those who want to come to the UK to start a business.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Immigration will finally be subject to democratic control, allowing us to get overall numbers down.”

But on Thursday, the Prime Minister said the Conservatives’ promised points-based immigration system “may” mean the numbers come down “in some sectors”, after Ms Patel had earlier said a Tory government would “reduce immigration overall”.

Ministers have already made clear they are finally abandoning the party’s long-standing commitment to get net migration down below 100,000 a year – a target they have never met.

Announcing immigration plans, the party said access to benefits will be equalised between EU nationals and those from the rest of the world, meaning non-UK citizens will typically need to wait five years before they are able to claim benefits.

The party pointed out that under current rules, EU migrants can access welfare and services after being in the UK for three months.

A Tory government would also vow to put an end to the practice of child benefit being sent abroad to support children who do not live in the UK.

The party claims these two measures could save an estimated £800 million a year by 2024-25.

Another measure to be introduced by the Tories would be an increase to the immigration health surcharge from £400 to £625.

The party said that under the current system, people on a work, study or family visa incur average NHS costs of £625 per year but only pay £400, and it said the change will raise more than £500 million a year.

Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel say the proposed measures will make the immigration system fairer (PA)

The surcharge was originally brought in by the Government in 2015 in a clampdown on so-called “health tourism”, and has previously been doubled from £200 to £400.

The party said there will be an “immediate cash injection of £20 million this year” to strengthen borders and reduce illegal immigration, including new equipment to better detect illicit goods such as firearms and drugs.

Mr Johnson said: “As we come out of the EU we have a new opportunity for fairness and to make sure all those who come here are treated the same.

“We will make our immigration system equal – whilst at the same time ensuring our fantastic public services, like the NHS, are all properly funded.

“A majority Conservative government will ensure that people who come to our great country from anywhere in the world have both a job to come to, and make a contribution to our NHS – so that we can protect and improve the public services we all benefit from.”

(PA Graphics)

Ms Patel said: “One of the benefits of Brexit is that we get to take back control and make our system fairer. A majority Conservative government will ensure that people who come to our great country from anywhere in the world will contribute on day one.

“A Labour government would see immigration surge, placing huge strain on public services like our NHS and prisons.

“(Jeremy) Corbyn would also subject the UK to the chaos of two more referendums, with no time to focus on the people’s priorities.

“Only a Conservative majority can get Parliament working again and get Brexit done so that we can end freedom of movement once and for all.”