UK election: May says immigration target still at 100,000

Labour on defensive over second Brexit referendum on first full day of campaigning

British prime minister Theresa May during a visit to radar manufacturer Kelvin Hughes Limited in Enfield, north London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

British prime minister Theresa May during a visit to radar manufacturer Kelvin Hughes Limited in Enfield, north London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

 

Theresa May has reaffirmed her commitment to bringing annual net immigration below 100,000, after one of her ministers said that controlling immigration was “not about numbers”. Speaking in Enfield during a campaign visit to a factory, the prime minister said she would not abandon the target.

“We’ve been very clear, as I was as home secretary for six years, that it’s important that we have net migration that is in sustainable numbers. We believe sustainable numbers are the tens of thousands,” she told Sky News.

“Leaving the European Union enables us to control our borders in relation to people coming from the EU as well as those who are coming from outside the EU.”

Labour was also on the defensive on Thursday afternoon, ruling out holding a referendum on the final Brexit deal hours after Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor refused to do so. Ms May seized on the Labour leadership’s confused message to claim that a Labour government would bring chaos to the country.

“What we saw from Jeremy Corbyn this morning was his refusal to rule out the possibility of a second referendum over Brexit. That’s wrong. People voted in the referendum last year to leave the European Union. That is what the government needs to put into place. And his failure to rule that second referendum out shows the coalition of chaos that we would have under Jeremy Corbyn,” she said.

Good start

The row over a second Brexit referendum overshadowed a good start for the Labour leader’s campaign with a passionate speech to party activists in London which cast the election as a battle between the establishment and the people. Mr Corbyn sought to shift the election’s focus away from Brexit and on to economic unfairness and what he called a “rigged system” which favoured cosy cartels over the majority who are struggling.

The first full day of campaigning saw a number of MPs announcing that they would not stand in the general election, including Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Dave Anderson. Mr Anderson, who cited family and health reasons, said he would campaign for Labour with Mr Corbyn.

Labour’s Gisela Stuart, who played a prominent role in the Leave campaign during last year’s referendum, is also standing down. Douglas Carswell, who defected from the Conservatives to Ukip before leaving that party to become an Independent, said on Thursday that he will not contest his seat in Clacton.

Mr Carswell, who said he would vote Conservative in the election, said he had achieved what he had set out to do in politics by helping to secure Brexit.

“I have done everything possible to ensure we got, and won, a referendum to leave the European Union – even changing parties and triggering a byelection to help nudge things along. Last summer, we won that referendum. Britain is going to become a sovereign country again,” he said.

The Liberal Democrats, who said 8,000 people have joined the party within 48 hours, described Mr Carswell as the latest top Brexiteer to leave a sinking ship.

Nigel Farage ruled out standing in the general election, claiming his position as an MEP gave him a better chance to influence Brexit. The former Ukip leader said he would be able to use his profile in European politics to put “real pressure” on MEPs to back a “sensible deal” for the UK.