It's not surprising the question of migration is causing the PM a major political headache

Record-breaking immigration numbers are splitting the Conservative cabinet, analysis from Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana

And it was certainly true - when we were out speaking to voters in Bexhill last week - that people arriving in the country irregularly was the biggest concern.

But folk we spoke to were also nervous about a surge in legal migration numbers because of the pressure that would put on public services.

One said her son had lived with her until he was 32 because of a lack of affordable housing, and asked how it was possible to accommodate so many more people.

So it's not surprising that an expected surge in legal migration - with the net rate for 2022 expected to be revealed as between 700,000, and 1 million later this month - is causing the PM a major political headache.

There have been Cabinet tensions around this issue for some time, and inevitably so because of the competing demands of different departments.

The latest today comes from DEFRA arguing to please farmers who want more visas for fruit pickers. The PM has today accepted that and there will be 45,000 visas issued again in 2024, with a potential 10,000 extra if needed.

This comes after a scheme to recruit more fruit pickers in the UK - Pick For Britain- that was meant to boost British workers taking roles in this area was scrapped.

Officials say that was because it was a targeted scheme to plug the gap during Covid, when people couldn't travel - but it underlines the challenge in replacing this jobs with the domestic workforce.

Meanwhile there is the question of international students, with the Department for Education obviously wanting to protect the huge economic benefit that is brought by them.

In fact, we've had targets to grow the number of international students - a fact that places obvious strain on attempts to bring down overall migration figures.

I'm told that the education secretary Gillian Keegan does support the idea of limiting some students from bringing in dependents but only for shorter courses - under one year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing unrest within the Tory ranks Credit: Kin Cheung/PA

While previously some have argued to extend that to longer term students as well.

And then there is overall fact of massive vacancies in the country, and the Treasury's desire to make sure they are filled to help boost the economy.

In reality, immigration is one of the areas that the OBR will score when it draws up forecasts for future growth - which is one reason why Liz Truss was willing to boost immigration, had she remained as PM.

But Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, made clear on Monday that she sees bringing down migration as absolutely key to her role, including a comment on training fruit pickers ourselves.

She also wants limits on students bringing spouses and other family members with them.

It's now down to the PM to decide which way to go with this, and whether it will be far enough to make a real dent to the numbers - particularly if doing so carried an economic cost.

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