Liam Fox: Brexit could help cut immigration to tens of thousands


A former Conservative defence secretary has said it would be possible to reduce immigration to tens of thousands if the UK votes to leave the EU.

Brexit advocate Liam Fox was asked about one of the biggest issues featuring in the referendum debate on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

Dr Fox said immigration is a "huge issue for real people" who are facing the implications of it in their "real lives" and that he does not have a problem with migration, but "uncontrolled migration".

"No Conservative MP who was elected at the last election can fulfil our pledge to the British people - including me - if we stay in the European Union," said the North Somerset MP.

"I am quite sure that the Prime Minister wanted to be able to get restrictions on free movement to be able to meet that target but it wasn't on offer.

"There is no reformed EU, it is a fantasy."

Asked if it was ignorance or deceit on the part of David Cameron, Dr Fox said he thinks the Prime Minister wanted to achieve change.

He added: "But it is now totally clear to us that if we stay in the EU with free movement, we saw 184,000 net EU migrants coming to the UK last year, that will not be a pledge we can meet.

"It is impossible when you are planning public services to deal with those sorts of numbers and have school places predicted, NHS, housing - they are huge issues for real people.

"Downing Street said today that was a huge distraction, it is not a distraction, it is a huge issue for many people who are facing the implication of this immigration in their real lives."

Denying that the Tories went into the general election with a misleading manifesto, Dr Fox said it was "entirely possible" to meet the pledge to reduce immigration to tens of thousands.

"But only in my view if we left the European Union," he added.

"Our choice as a country is between getting control and taking our destiny into our hands - or ever closer union, ending up in what is likely to be much closer to a single European state."

He said it would be possible to get down to the target of tens of thousands, but that "you would have to take some pretty tough decisions to do it".