Rishi Sunak’s migration failure means Brexit is “dead” under the Tories and an opportunity for the UK to rejoin the EU is opening up, veteran Eurosceptic campaigners have told GB News.
The Prime Minister was dealt a major blow on Thursday after the net migration figure hit 672,000.
Net migration also climbed to a record-breaking 745,000 in 2022, revised data from the Office for National Statistics has also shown.
The latest figures are unlikely to win over despondent Brexit voters who were persuaded by Vote Leave’s pledge to “take back control” of the UK’s borders in 2016.
WATCH NOW: Tory MP Miriam Cates discusses mass migration
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson doubled-down on the commitment at the last general election by vowing to introduce an Australian-style points-based system which he claimed would lead to “fewer lower-skilled migrants” and a reduction in overall numbers.
Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron, who led the unsuccessful Remain campaign and described Brexit as his biggest political “regret”, previously pledged to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands during his own stint in Number 10.
However, two Brexit campaigners have voiced their dismay with the current situation.
An insider from the Vote Leave campaign told GB News: “Voters clearly voted for vastly reduced immigration levels and that was clear from how the campaign was run.
“We had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restructure the economy and make it a high-pay, high-skilled economy but the Government has gone down the avenue of low-skilled mass immigration and pumped the numbers up.”
The 2016 campaign veteran, who warned the UK will “likely rejoin” the Brussels bloc in the next 10 years, added: “It shows a total disregard for the electorate because even some of the MPs who claim they wanted Brexit have a totally different view to the general population.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
“The Government just doesn’t understand what people want in this country. And if they do understand then they don’t care.”
A second Brexit campaigner was even more scathing about the Tory Party’s handling of Britain’s departure from the EU.
“The net migration numbers show that the Brexit project is dead under the Tories,” the source said.
“The single biggest benefit about leaving the EU was that we’d finally be able to control the numbers entering the country, but our political class have idly sat back whilst the numbers skyrocket to record levels.
“Voters were promised time and again that a post-Brexit border policy would help alleviate the crises in healthcare, housing, and the standard of living being caused by mass immigration.
“People have been lied to and there is understandable anger that the Conservative Party seem to be presiding over an open border system that dwarfs the damage done by New Labour.
Vote Leave posters in front of the Vote Leave battle bus as it stops in Portsmouth
The campaigner, who called for a “a wholesale clear-out of Westminster”, added: “It’s hard to see how things could get any worse under a Labour Government.
“The Conservatives have given us plenty of tough talk but continue to govern as One Nation centrists that are indistinguishable from Liberal Democrats.
“They need five years in opposition to reinvent themselves, rediscover some semblance of conservative principle, and recognise that the likes of Hunt and Cameron have had their day.”
However, former Number 10 fixer Dominic Cummings suggested the main benefit Brexit brought to the current immigration debate is that it now means politicians are accountable and cannot blame to Brussels.
Cummings, who played a leading role on the Vote Leave campaign, shared a post on social media which said: “The responsibility for immigration policy, from anywhere, lies at Westminster … They can no longer blame anyone else.”
Opinion polls conducted at the time of the referendum suggested immigration was the second most important factor motivating Brexit voters, with sovereignty emerging as the main issue.
A survey released earlier this year also revealed that 52 per cent of voters want the number of immigrants coming to Britain to be reduced.
Only 14 per cent voiced support for an increase and 22 per cent expressed a desire for the figure to remain the same.
However, 74 per cent of 2019 Tory voters and 73 per cent of 2016 Leave voters want to see numbers come down.
Despite the commitment to “take back control” and cut numbers, a number of Tory MPs appear relaxed and support Sunak in his bid to curb net migration.
A Minister told GB News: “As a Brexiteer, I want control of our immigration and we have that. I don’t think the number is the point, it’s control. What we do need is more housing which is being stopped by labour.”
Former Brexit Minister David Jones, who now serves as deputy chairman of the European Research Group, added: “The Government will no doubt want to listen carefully to the representations they are receiving from the parliamentary party.”
Prominent Brexiteer David Jones seems reassured by Rishi Sunak’s comments
Sunak refused to apologise for the scale of immigration in recent years but conceded the 2023 figure is too high.
Speaking during a visit to Nissan’s car plant in Sunderland, the Prime Minister said: “I’m very clear that the levels of migration are too high and they’ve got to come down to more sustainable levels.”
Sunak, who stressed net migration is “slowing”, also argued that “clamping down on the number of dependents able to come to Britain with foreign students will help curb the figure.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick will soon unveil a five-point plan to reduce legal migration.
It is expected to include proposals to scrap the shortage occupation list which allows foreign workers to be paid 20 per cent below the going rate if the sector is desperately seeking labour.
However, the Government is also facing pressure to deliver on its commitment to stop migrants crossing the Channel.
Sunak has been dealt a number of major blows on the issue which he included in his five pledges, including the Supreme Court’s ruling that the policy is “unlawful”.
Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been among a number of Tory MPs to go on record as being critical of the Government’s handling of immigration.
Braverman, who was sacked earlier this month, suggested Sunak should introduce measures which she claimed she was “pushing for” while in Cabinet.
The Fareham MP suggested an annual cap on net migration, an increase in the salary threshold, the closure of the graduate visa route, a limit on the number of health and social care visas and restrictions on the number of dependents on all visas.
The New Conservatives, headed up by MPs Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger, have also voiced concern about the net migration figure.
However, a source close to the ERG issued a major warning to the Prime Minister about the handling of the situation.
The insider told GB News: “This will really spook large numbers of MPs and after buying a bit of time with the Autumn Statement all momentum has again been lost. I think if polls don’t start to narrow then that will be a huge worry for Number 10 as this was their last chance at a major reset.”
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