David Cameron promised to bring down net migration ‘rapidly, from hundreds of thousands, to just tens of thousands.’ He failed. Theresa May promised the same. She failed. Boris Johnson merely promised ‘we will reduce immigration overall.’ He failed. Now Rishi Sunak is making an even easier promise, to reduce immigration from the sky-high levels under Boris Johnson. What is the likelihood he will fail?
Brexit was mostly about mass immigration. Yes there were other contributing factors, but everything comes back to, and is linked by, the public’s desire for lower immigration. A 2021 study found that 89.8% of Leavers wanted ‘somewhat less’ or ‘many fewer’ immigrants, a stark contrast with the 13.7% of Remainers who answered the same. It is only a half-truth to say it was about ‘taking back control’ of our borders. That was merely the method by which the purpose of lowering immigration would be achieved.
I am going to go on record as stating that I thought Brexit would be, on balance, a poor idea. I thought it would harm our economy in the short to medium term, and the long term benefits were too uncertain. But, it was the democratic will of the people of Britain, and I believe the foremost desire behind that will should have been respected by the Conservative Party leadership. Instead however, net migration, which stood at the already astronomical figure of 329,000 in 2015, grew to 606,000 in 2022. In 1997 under John Major it was 48,000. This complete failure by successive Conservative governments to bring numbers down as promised is likely to alienate the very voters they need the most at their next election, the Red Wall who voted in 2019 to ‘Get Brexit Done’ and thereby lower immigration. If, as I fear, Rishi Sunak ignores the public’s desire to substantially lower legal immigration, and continues to try to distract by solely focusing on illegal small-boats migrants, then a Labour government will be swept into power by a disaffected North.