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Rishi Sunak says immigration is too high but doesn’t set a target for cut

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty arriving by plane in Hiroshima after their visit to Tokyo (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty arriving by plane in Hiroshima after their visit to Tokyo (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Immigration to Britain is “too high”, the Prime Minister said on Friday but he refused to commit to lowering levels significantly before the next election.

Rishi Sunak indicated he had set himself a target to reduce net migration to less than half a million — the level it was when he entered Number 10.

But figures due to be released next week are expected to see the numbers soar to more than 700,000.

The Tory manifesto that Boris Johnson stood on at the 2019 election pledged to lower net migration from the then level of less than 230,000.

Mr Sunak was pressed on the issue during a series of broadcast interviews at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

“What I would say is we’re considering a range of options to help tackle numbers of legal migration and to bring those numbers down,” he told the BBC.

He added that he is “crystal clear” he wants to reduce immigration, but when pressed to what level, he said: “I’m not going to put a precise figure on it but I do want to bring them down.

“The numbers are too high. Now, the numbers last year were impacted by the fact that we welcomed Ukrainian refugees to the UK. Again, that’s something I think we are proud of.”

He also defended the Government’s record, adding: “When someone comes here, we are the ones that decide why they’re here, what they’re doing when they’re here, that they are contributing to the NHS. So actually we are in control of all those conditions in a way that we weren’t before.”

Pressed by Sky News whether he can bring down net migration to below 500,000 by the next election, he said: “I’m committed to bringing down the levels of migration that I inherited, and I’m relentlessly focused on stopping the boats... that’s one of my five priorities, and we’re doing absolutely everything we can to do that.”

Mr Sunak raised migration with allies at a Council of Europe meeting in Iceland on Tuesday.

The PM believes he had made “another big step forward” with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the UK working with the bloc’s border force, Frontex.

And he also held talks with the president of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Siofra O’Leary, over a review of the working of Rule 39.

The order was used to block the inaugural forced removal flight of refugees to Rwanda last year.

Mr Sunak sees the stalled policy as key to reducing unauthorised entries to the UK.