Two-thirds of people don't believe Theresa May will achieve tens of thousands immigration target

Andrew Grice
Theresa May insists that she wants to get net migration to below 100,000 people a year: Getty

Two out of three people believe that Theresa May will not meet her target to reduce net migration below 100,000 a year, according to a new survey.

The poll of 1,000 people by Ipsos MORI found that only 18 per cent think that the Government will achieve its goal of cutting net migration to the “tens of thousands.”

The findings will strengthen the hand of ministers urging Ms May not to include the figure in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto. Although the Prime Minister has restated her personal commitment to the target set by David Cameron in 2010, some ministers want the manifesto to promise only that migration would be reduced to “sustainable levels”. They believe that repeating the figure would be a hostage to fortune as it is unlikely to be achieved.

The Independent and the Open Britain group are running a Drop the Target campaign aimed at persuading the Government to abandon its goal.

According to Ipsos Mori, some 68 per cent of the public believe it is either not at all likely or fairly unlikely the Conservatives will be able to achieve their target.

Asked what would be a sustainable level of net migration, only one in five people (20 per cent) says it should be 100,000 or above (after being told that it currently stands at 273,000). Half (49 per cent) think it should be 100,000 or less and 30 per cent are unsure.

The public have differing views on whether special visas should be offered to EU citizens doing certain jobs after Brexit. Only one in three people (33 per cent) thinks baristas should be offered such a visa while 52 per cent do not.

Four out of five people believe doctors and nurses should be given such work visas, while 69 per cent say that academics, 61 per cent that computer experts and 60 per cent that care home workers should be.

The proportions are lower for seasonal fruit and vegetable pickers (56 per cent); construction workers (46 per cent); restaurant and catering staff (42 per cent); and bankers (41 per cent).

One in three Britons (32 per cent) thinks that curbing immigration would cause higher prices for goods and services, but two in five (40 per cent) believe it would make no difference. The public is more likely to think that reducing immigration may have a price effect on goods and services in those industries relying on immigration — such as care homes, taxi cabs and food.

The public is split on whether price rises would be a price worth paying for curbing immigration. Two in five (42 per cent) say it would, but 37 per cent disagree because of the problems it would cause for businesses and consumers.

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP and supporter of Open Britain, said: “The public is right to be sceptical about Theresa May’s chances of cutting annual net migration to the tens of thousands. The Government has spent seven years trying, and it is no closer now than it was in 2010.

“This policy is not just unachievable, it is damaging to our economy and public services. This poll shows the public value the European citizens who work in our health service, our agricultural sector, our universities and tech businesses. For Britain to continue to grow and create jobs, we will need these hard-working people more than ever. It is time for the Government to drop the target and implement an immigration policy that serves our economic needs, rather than undermining them.”

Kully Kaur-Ballagan, head of race, faith and cohesion research at Ipsos Mori, said: “Despite her commanding poll lead, Theresa May shows little sign of overturning the public’s long-held scepticism that immigration can be brought down to the ‘tens of thousands’. Our data also shows that, even though many are concerned about immigration, the public does differentiate between different types, while remain and leave voters are still divided in their views.”

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