Theresa May’s target to cut immigration to below 100,000 is out of reach, a former Home Office mandarin has claimed.
Brexit is unlikely to lead to a reduction in the number of migrants moving to the UK, Sir David Normington suggested.
The former permanent secretary said it would be “very difficult” to keep track of who comes into and leaves the country without introducing identity cards.
A target to cut the net migration level – the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country – to the tens of thousands was introduced when Mrs May was home secretary but the level remains more than double that.
The Prime Minister has remained committed to the aim despite calls from some Conservatives to drop it.
Sir David said a hard cap on migration would be “very inflexible” and would probably not be met.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it is fine for the Government to signal that it wants to reduce immigration over a period if that’s what it decides to do.
“Targets get discredited if they are never met. I’d say to the Government, if you are going to have a target it would be better that you set one that is achievable to begin with, and that what we don’t have is one that is out of reach.
“I really do think that for the moment a target which is below 100,000, which is what they have always said, is out of reach.”