Rishi Sunak faces Conservative revolt over record-high migration

PM Rishi Sunak faces calls from within his own party to crack down on migration following the latest figures. Credit: PA

A right-wing revolt is growing in the Conservative Party, with Rishi Sunak facing anger from his backbenches over new figures which showed migration hit a record high last year.

The prime minister accepted "levels of migration are too high and they’ve got to come down" after interventions from former home secretary Suella Braverman and the New Conservatives group.

Even members of his top team are reportedly urging him to be tougher on migration, with Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick pushing for a five-point migration plan, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Net migration reached 672,000 people in the year to June 2023 according to provisional data from the Office for National Statistics released Thursday. The total for 2022 was also revised to 745,000, meaning it broke all previous records.

The data puts migration levels at three times higher than before Brexit.

Part of Mr Jenrick's plan would involve capping the number of visas available for foreign workers looking to move to the UK to work for the NHS or in the care sector, and banning social care workers from bringing dependents into the country.

Foreign health and social care workers migrated with a total of 173,896 dependents with 143,990 workers, ONS data showed.

The government believes that introducing a higher threshold could reduce long-term migration by more than 50,000 people per year.

"I'm very clear that the levels of migration are too high and they've got to come down to more sustainable levels," Mr Sunak said Friday morning, speaking from a Nissan car factory in Sunderland.

Mr Sunak also described measures to reduce the number of dependents students can bring to the UK as "the single toughest measure that anyone has taken to bring down the levels of legal migration in a very long time."

'Stop the boats' has become a key slogan for the Government as it looks to reduce both legal and illegal migration. Credit: PA

The government announced in May that international sponsored students would no longer be allowed to bring dependents with them to the UK. The changes were set to come into effect in January.

Reducing migration was one of the five priorities laid out by Mr Sunak at the start of the year, with "stop the boats" becoming an often-repeated slogan by the prime minister and cabinet ministers.

Home secretary James Cleverly seemed to play down the figures from the ONS, telling The Times: “This figure is not showing a significant increase from last year’s figures and is largely in line with our immigration statistics.”

His predecessor Mrs Braverman, sacked from her Cabinet role last week, said on social media: “Today’s record numbers are a slap in the face to the British public who have voted to control and reduce migration at every opportunity.

“We must act now to reduce migration to sustainable levels. Brexit gave us the tools. It’s time to use them.”

The New Conservatives - a group of around 25 Tory MPs who entered Parliament after 2017 - who demanded action to bring down net migration in a strongly-worded statement, saying it is "‘do or die’ for our party".

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