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May: Govt 'unlikely' to meet migration pledge

May: Govt 'unlikely' to meet migration pledge

The Home Secretary has admitted that the Government is "unlikely" to meets its pledge to reduce annual net migration to below 100,000 during this parliament.

Theresa May’s comments this morning are the clearest admission yet on the issue, after previous attempts by ministers and Number 10 to downgrade the commitment.

They come as David Cameron is set to step up the attack on Ukip this week by pledging fresh curbs on EU migrants’ welfare entitlements.

According to the Sunday Times, the Prime Minister will use a key speech on immigration to propose a ban on migrants claiming tax credits, housing benefit and social housing for at least the first two years they are in the UK.

The plans came under fire from Mr Cameron's former Tory leadership rival this morning, as David Davis said the Prime Minister should instead push for curbs to European freedom of movement.

He told the Andrew Marr Show that while the reported measures would in themselves be “worthwhile”, their impact was likely to be limited because the majority of those coming to Britain were “not coming here for benefits, they’re coming here for jobs”.

On the same show, the Home Secretary said: "What we’ve done is that we have been controlling net non-EU migration. That is now down to the levels of the late 1990s. And we’ve been changing every single route.

"So we see reductions in families visas. We see reductions in student visas. We’ve been rooting out abuse. There are 750 colleges now that can’t bring overseas students in."

"But, it is of course unlikely that we’re going to reach the tens of thousands by the end of the Parliament. Why is that? It’s because we’ve seen increasing numbers of people coming from across Europe, partly because our economy is doing better than other economies in Europe, and we’ve been doing what we can in relation to EU migration. But there is of course more to be done."

Former cabinet minister Ken Clarke meanwhile warned his party against "trailing all kinds of suggestions of things we can think of that might be nasty to Europeans on the benefit front".

Reacting to the measures in today's Sunday Times report, Mr Clarke suggested the plans could be discriminatory and would fail to quell eurosceptic demands.

"You have an Englishman working a alongside a Pole, doing the same job, they both pay the same taxes, which amongst other things pay for tax credits, and the Englishman gets the tax credit and the Pole doesn’t," he told Sky News Murnaghan.

"If I was a Polish politician I wouldn’t agree to that in a negotiation nor do I think it’s a particular problem. And I don’t think it will pacify the Ukip people or the extreme Eurosceptic people.”

Mr Cameron will come under renewed pressure over Europe tomorrow when former environment secretary Owen Paterson urges the Prime Minister to set out how he would leave the EU if his renegotiation strategy fails. The Sunday Times also reports that Mr Cameron has ordered ministers to paint Ukip as a risk to the country’s economy.

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