Priti Patel says Conservative government will cut 'overall' immigration
The Conservatives will cut "overall" immigration if Boris Johnson wins the election, Priti Patel has declared.
The Home Secretary unveiled the pledge as she claimed Labour's own border plans would see immigration "surge" and put "huge strain" on public services.
Mr Johnson moved to axe a long-standing Conservative promise to reduce net migration to the "tens of thousands" in one of his first acts as Prime Minister.
The target, which was first announced by David Cameron a decade ago, had been repeatedly missed under successive Home Secretaries.
But Ms Patel said Tory plans to bring in an Australian-style points based immigration system for EU and non-EU migrants would reduce the numbers coming to the UK.
It is the first time a minister has promised to bring down immigration since the tens of thousands pledge was ditched.
The Home Secretary said: "We will reduce immigration overall while being more open and flexible to the highly skilled people we need, such as scientists and doctors.
"This can only happen if people vote for a Conservative majority government so we can leave the EU with a deal.”
In the latest salvo in the election battle for Number 10, Ms Patel also tore into Labour's own immigration proposals.
Labour's annual conference saw members back a policy to "maintain and extend freedom of movement rights", a figure the Conservatives claim could lead to a sharp rise in the numbers of people coming to the UK.
The Tories claim that Labour's Brexit plans would be closely modelled on continued membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), meaning it would have to accept free movement rules.
Under those plans, the Conservatives say the UK would see net migration to the UK of 260,000 every year.
Meanwhile if freedom of movement rights were extended to non-EU countries the Tory research says the net migration figure could climb to an average of 840,000 a year.
"Under Corbyn's Labour, immigration would surge, and put huge strain on schools and our NHS," Ms Patel said.
But Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott shot back, accusing the Tories of peddling "more fake news from the Conservative Party's make-believe research department".
She added: "Unlike the Tories we won't scapegoat migrants or deport our own Windrush generation citizens. The damage done to our society has been through damaging Conservative cuts to our public services, not by EU nationals coming to work in them."
The row comes amid splits in the Labour ranks over the party's conference policy on immigration ahead of a crucial meeting to decide its election manifesto.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey - a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn - sparked anger as he told The Guardian his union would oppose any attempt to extend free movement in line with the conference pledge.
"We will have to see what’s in the manifesto, but I don’t think [what conference voted for] is a sensible approach and I will be expressing that view," he said.
But Alena Ivanova of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement said: "A Romanian care worker and a British bus driver have more in common with each other than they do with their boss. That is the basis of the trade union movement.
"Len McCluskey’s job is to fight for their full rights, for decent pay and the right not to be deported and harassed by the state because of their immigration status."