Immigration to Britain is “unacceptably high” and must be cut, but this can be achieved whilst ensuring businesses can still import talent, Prime Minister David Cameron said in remarks on Sunday, the Economic Times reports.
He spoke a few days after the Migration Advisory Committee, charged with advising the government on migration, said the number of skilled workers from outside the European Union allowed into Britain should be cut by up to 25%.
“Over recent years we’ve had net immigration into the UK of about 200,000, that is two million extra people every 10 years,” Cameron told Sky News in an interview shown on Sunday.
“That is unacceptably high and has got to be brought down, and I’m quite convinced that it’s possible to bring it down while making sure that business can access talent,” he added.
Businesses are concerned that the plans could harm British competitiveness, and Business Secretary Vince Cable has tried to reassure firms that new immigration curbs planned by the government will be flexible.
However, in September Vince Cable openly spoke out against official government policy.
In a statement to the FT, the Liberal Democrat MP said that the immigration rules and immigration cap are causing “a lot of damage to business industry“.
The outspoken Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson also broke from his own party ranks over immigration, warning that plans to limit the number of migrants to Britain will damage the economy.
Mr Johnson, who was also lobbying on behalf of the City of London business and banking district, which seeks to attract top talent from around the world to its boardrooms, said, ‘A major rethink of Government policy is required’ as the cap would ‘have a significant negative and disproportionate impact on London’.
It will ‘put the economic recovery at risk by creating skills gaps and placing London at a competitive disadvantage in the global competition for talent and inward investment’, he said.
The London Mayor, like the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, he has also supported an amnesty on illegal immigrants which he said would add billions to the London economy.
Cameron said he wanted net immigration to Britain to be in the tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands, adding that popular support for tackling immigration was one of the reasons his right-leaning Conservative party was elected.
Some among the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the coalition government, are uncomfortable with the proposed cap.
A permanent cap on migrants from outside the European Union will be set in April next year, and in the meantime the government has introduced interim measures to avoid a rush of last-minute visa applications while old rules still apply.
Some 196,000 more people migrated to Britain than left the country in 2009, according to official statistics.
Highly skilled workers and fee paying students are flocking to countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
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