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Brexit Hasn’t Dispelled Concerns Over U.K. Immigration Control

  • Prime Minister has promised reduction to ‘tens of thousands’
  • Britons are skeptical of that pledge, a new survey shows

Britons are coming to the realization that leaving the European Union won’t bring immigration under control.

A report by think tank British Future found that a majority are skeptical the government will deliver on a promise to bring net migration to below 100,000 by 2020. Its ICM poll surveyed 2,418 adults online between June 24-26, taking the pulse of the nation in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. 

Under the new leadership of Prime Minister Theresa May, it remains to be seen if and how the Conservative government can stick to a manifesto pledge of bringing net migration down to tens of thousands. May said recently it “may take some time to get there.” Anti-immigrant sentiment helped tip the referendum outcome in favor of the ‘Leave’ camp.

When asked about the migration goal, 54 percent of those that took a view didn’t think the target would be met. Six in ten adults surveyed said they would specifically like fewer low-skilled immigrants, taking a much more lenient view on high-skilled labor. For example, half of those who voted to quit the 28-nation bloc would also be happy for the number of foreign students to stay the same.

“Public trust in governments’ competence to manage immigration – including meeting its own targets – is at rock bottom,” said Sunder Katwala, director of British Future. “Until we know what Brexit looks like, no one can sensibly predict what immigration levels would be best for Britain. But the Brexit shake-up could be an opportunity to get immigration policy right.”

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