Braverman to press ahead with UK pledge to curb migration

Suella Braverman, home secretary, will on Monday reiterate the UK government’s commitment to bring down net migration as inflows are expected to hit a record high this year.

Braverman will say in her keynote speech at the National Conservatism conference in London on Monday that she campaigned for Brexit because she wanted Britain to control migration.

It is the second conference in a week involving leading figures on the Tory right who are keen to regain the political agenda after a poor performance at local elections earlier this month.

In its 2019 general election manifesto, the Conservative party promised that overall numbers would come down, but official data due this month from the Office for National Statistics are expected to instead show that net migration has hit record levels.

“We need to get overall immigration numbers down,” the home secretary will tell the conference, which will also be attended by levelling-up secretary Michael Gove, former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lord Frost, former Brexit negotiator.

Frost confirmed on Sunday that he had launched a bid to become a Conservative MP at the next general election.

“Brexit enables us to build a high-skilled, high-wage economy that is less dependent on low-skilled foreign labour. That was our 2019 manifesto pledge and what we must deliver,” Braverman will say, adding that it was not “racist” to want to control Britain’s borders.

Public concern about the scale of migration into the UK was a key driver of the “Leave” campaign in the Brexit referendum. Annual net migration fell from 306,000 at the time of vote in 2016 to 88,000 for the year to June 2020, just before Britain formally left the EU.

Priti Patel at the Conservative Democratic Organisation conference in Bournemouth on Saturday © Andrew Matthews/PA

Since then, however, the figure has risen to 503,000 for June 2021-2022 and is expected to reach a record high this year, driven mainly by a surge in post-pandemic international study, inflows of Hong Kong residents and Ukrainian and Afghan refugees.

On Sunday, The Guardian reported that nine organisations, including the Society of Asian Lawyers and the Association of Muslim Lawyers, had written to the Bar Standards Board, urging it to investigate comments previously made by Braverman.

Braverman is a qualified barrister and still subject to certain rules governing professional conduct.

The three-day National Conservatism conference is organised by the Edmund Burke Foundation, a group led by American and Israeli rightwingers. It follows the launch event of the Conservative Democratic Organisation in Bournemouth on Saturday, a group set up after Boris Johnson was ousted from Downing Street.

Sunak faced a wave of criticism at the CDO conference, including from former home secretary Priti Patel who blamed the Tories’ poor local elections result on his leadership.

Patel told disgruntled Conservative campaigners: “If the centre of the party spent more time with us, listening, engaging, then I think it’s fair to say we would not have seen over 1,000 of our friends and colleagues even lose their seats.” 

The CDO has repeatedly denied the charge that it is a “Bring Back Boris” front group, although conference organiser Claire Bullivant’s suggestion on stage that it would benefit the party if he returned to the helm was met with cheers.

Johnson himself did not appear in person, instead sending a video message that lasted less than a minute, in which he got the name of the organisation wrong.

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