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Closing the deal 4/10: Define the limit on net immigration

Screen shot 2010-01-24 at 22.56.58 If the economy (addressed an hour ago) is the number one General Election issue, voters told YouGov and MigrationWatch that immigration was their second most important issue.

The Conservatives have been gently raising the volume on this issue recently - and Chris Grayling made a good intervention two weeks ago, promising to tackle the biggest vulnerability in our borders; the student visa system.

One of the other crucial ingredients in the Tory commitment to end Labour's uncontrolled immigration policy is the introduction of a cap on the inflow from outside the EU. It may be impossible to set the cap exactly because the party has rightly promised to consult with business and the key public services on their needs for specialist and seasonal workers. We could, however, announce an overall target for net immigration. A commitment, for example, to limit net immigration to an average of 50,000 per year - within an annual flexible rage of 30,000 to 70,000 would be indicative to voters while allowing employers flexibility to influence the inflow of economic migrants.

The announcement should be made soon - to avoid being made in the heat of an election campaign - and ideally after a couple of good opinion polls. The worst time would be after a bad opinion poll and the announcement would then risk being presented as a panic measure.

The announcement could be made by Chris Grayling, Damian Green and Sayeeda Warsi. 

Tim Montgomerie


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