The Tories have pledged they will cut immigration if they return to power in the General Election but said they will not set “arbitrary targets” for getting the numbers down.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said a Conservative government will “reduce immigration overall” through the introduction of a points-based system.
However, ministers also made clear that they were abandoning the party’s long-standing commitment to get net migration down below 100,000 a year – a target they have never met.
Security Minister Brandon Lewis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are not setting some arbitrary target.
“We want to introduce a new points-based system that is fair and equal to the entire world. That gives us control and we can then see immigration being reduced.”
While the Tories have been committed to the introduction of an Australian-style points-based system since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July, ministers have consistently refused to say whether that would mean cutting immigration levels.
However, in a Conservative Party press statement attacking Labour’s immigration plans, Ms Patel committed them to bringing the numbers down once Britain has left the EU.
“We will reduce immigration overall while being more open and flexible to the highly skilled people we need, such as scientists and doctors,” she said.
“This can only happen if people vote for a Conservative majority Government so we can leave the EU with a deal.”