The delay in new migration measures could contribute to a surge in arrivals before they are introduced, leading analysts have warned.
Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, said it was “certainly plausible” that more foreign workers, students and families could seek to beat the deadline before the Government’s five-point plan to reduce net migration takes effect.
The new measures - including a ban on foreign care workers’ dependants, a 50 per cent rise in the salary threshold for skilled workers from its current level of £26,200 to £38,700 and an end to paying migrants in certain occupations 20 per cent less to bring them in in - are not due to be introduced until spring.
The Home Office estimates the measures will reduce net migration by 150,000, on top of a further 150,000 cut as a result of a ban on postgraduate students bringing in dependants, which takes effect in January.
That would slice 300,000 off the current net migration figure to June 2023 of 672,000.
Race to beat deadline
Ms Sumption said past experience of rushes to beat deadlines was “mixed” but she said: “It’s certainly plausible that there will be an increase ahead of the restrictions.”
This would reduce the chances of “significantly lower” net migration figures when they are reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) next November, two months before the last date for Rishi Sunak to call an election.
These figures would cover the year to June 2024, giving only a few months for the new measures to take effect.
As a result, said Ms Sumption, it was unlikely the Government would be able to reduce net migration to below the 2019 level of 226,000, as promised in the Conservative manifesto.
“Bringing numbers down to below 250,000 before the general election seems very unlikely,” she said.
Yesterday Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said further measures could be introduced for the Government to meet its manifesto pledge if required. He said ministers were committed to achieving the party’s 2019 manifesto pledge.
Speaking on Sky News, he said: “This matters a great deal to me and to the Government. So if we need to do more we will because we’re committed to reducing net migration. So if there are further steps we need to take in the months ahead, then we will do. But people are in no doubt that this is a very big first step.“
It is understood Mr Jenrick is seeking to accelerate the introduction of the five-point plan, which can be introduced through secondary legislation.
A ‘decent step’
An ally of Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, said the measures were a “decent step” but the Government should have gone further and much sooner.
“Now we’re facing an election where the numbers won’t be cut and we’ll likely have a rush of people coming in. This shows that inaction costs votes,” they said.
Tom Hunt, the Ipswich MP who wrote a report setting out a 12-point plan to reduce net migration for the New Conservatives, said: “The public are understandably highly sceptical of whatever politicians say on migration matters.
“Therefore it’s critical we find a way of demonstrating clearly to the British people that these measures are actually delivering real results ahead of the general election. How we do this I’m unsure as the next ONS figures won’t be until after the general election but we must find a way.”