Downing Street has insisted reducing net migration to below 100,000 is still government policy – despite the home secretary saying there are no more targets.
In the Commons on Monday, Sajid Javid was asked if the government was “formally dumping” its longstanding aim of getting net migration into the tens of thousands.
The home secretary replied: “There are no targets in our White Paper, which sets out our approach to the future immigration system.
“That said, we are still very clear, as I have already set out, that we must continue to work to bring net migration down to more sustainable levels.”
On Tuesday, Downing Street hit back, claiming the sub-100,000 target is still in place.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Sustainable levels is the tens of thousands – it’s included within the manifesto on which the government was elected.
“It’s also clear in the white paper we’ll be bringing net migration down to sustainable levels.”
The target was introduced by David Cameron in 2010, but has never been met.
The latest figures estimate that in the year to June 2018, net migration to the UK was 273,000.
In January, free-market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs dubbed the UK's approach to immigration policy "economically damaging" and "too restrictive" when applied to high-skilled workers.
The IEA said that as well as scrapping a target for net migration, the government should also remove caps on visas for the high-skilled and restrictions for working foreign students.