The British government’s post-Brexit plans will not include a specific target to reduce annual net migration, the interior minister said on Wednesday, appearing to abandon one of the Conservative Party’s main election promises.
The government will set out in detail for the first time on Wednesday how Britain intends to approach the issue of immigration, refocusing on a policy that will put British workers first.
Interior minister Sajid Javid refused seven times to say whether he was committed to his party’s long-standing commitment to reduce net migration to below 100,000 people a year.
“There is no specific target, what we have set out is that it will be a system that will bring net migration down to a sustainable level,” Javid said.
“If you look at the current level of migration, the latest stats show 273,000. Most people agree that is very high, certainly by historical standards.”
Prime Minister Theresa May is determined to end free movement of European Union nationals to Britain after Brexit but her plans have worried business leaders who warn it will hurt the economy.
Concern about the long-term social and economic impact of immigration helped drive Britain’s 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU.
Javid said the new rules are the biggest shake up of immigration regulations in 40 years and will define the labor market for decades to come.
The government will end free movement from other EU countries after Brexit and will hold a consultation over plans for a 30,000-pound ($38,000) minimum salary threshold for skilled EU migrants.
Javid said he planned to scrap the current cap on highly skilled migrants from the rest of the world to allow in professions such as doctors and engineers.
The government’s so-called White Paper follows a report by the Migration Advisory Committee in September which recommended Britain should not give preferential treatment to EU workers.
“We are delivering on the clear instruction to get control over our borders and will bring in a new system that works in the interest of the British people,” Javid said.
“It will be a single, skills-based immigration system built around the talent and expertise people can bring, rather than where they come from – maximizing the benefits of immigration and demonstrating the UK is open for business.”
May is yet to win the support of a deeply divided parliament for the divorce deal she struck last month with EU leaders to maintain close ties with the bloc.
With just 100 days until Brexit, the United Kingdom is on the brink of leaving the EU without a deal, the nightmare scenario for many businesses which are now planning for an economic shock.