Quite naturally, those campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union have seized on today’s net migration figures as evidence that staying in won’t resolve voters’ concerns about immigration. Priti Patel has said that ‘the proposed deal will do nothing to reduce the level of immigration from the EU, and will leave unelected politicians in Brussels and judges from the EU court in control of our borders’. Liam Fox has decided to go further. He points out to Coffee House that it is impossible for David Cameron to both campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union and continue to commit to the net migration target - and that the Conservative party should drop that target. Fox says:
‘Conservatives who vote to remain need to realise that they are breaking faith with the people who put them into Westminster.
‘Cameron could have asked for some restrictions on freedom of movement in the EU, but he did not ask for any anything and did not get anything it is therefore possible that we will breach one of our two key commitments to voters that we made in our manifesto, one on immigration and the other on deficit reduction.’
Even though Fox is obviously using this as a Leave campaign tactic, it is an important question that those Conservatives for Remain need to answer: what is the point of keeping the net migration target when you know you can’t meet it?