George Osborne’s economic blueprint relies on levels of immigration way above the Government’s target, documents reveal.
David Cameron has pledged to slash net migration to ‘tens of thousands’ by the end of the Parliament.
But economic projections drawn up by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) are based on numbers remaining above that objective for the next five years.
George Osborne’s economic blueprint relies on levels of immigration way above the Government’s target, documents reveal
Officials’ ‘central forecast’ for the economy assumes net migration – the difference between the number of arrivals and those leaving the country – will still be 185,000 in 2020-1. A worst-case ‘high migration’ scenario puts it at 265,000 in five years’ time.
Between 2015 and 2021 total net migration is estimated at a staggering 1.6million.
The figures will renew the row over claims the Chancellor is using migration to boost the country’s growth.
Alp Mehmet, of MigrationWatch UK, said: ‘High migration may grow GDP but it will do little for GDP per head. It’s pie in the sky to think high migration will balance the books.
‘It will simply stoke up future problems, apart from making a nonsense of the Government’s stated aim of net migration of tens of thousands.’
Ministers have missed their target – included in both the 2010 and 2015 Tory manifestos – every year since Mr Cameron entered Downing Street.
The forecast by the OBR is based on net migration of 329,000 last year.
They suggest it will fall sharply to 256,000 in 2016, 232,000 in 2017 and 226,000 the year after. It will continue to fall, reaching around 185,000 by the end of the Parliament in 2021. It means that over six years net migration will total some 1.6 million.
David Cameron (pictured) pledged to slash net migration to ‘tens of thousands’ but economic projections drawn up by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) are based on numbers remaining above that
Even under the ‘low migration’ model considered by the OBR, the net figure still misses the Government’s target.
This assumes net migration will be 105,000 by 2021. Using this model, economists suggest Mr Osborne would still hit his spending target of achieving a surplus. But he would have £6billion less to play with by 2020-21, and would break his welfare cap.
Highlighting the extent to which the Chancellor’s hopes for the public finances are based on high migrant numbers, the OBR concludes that ‘if a government succeeded in reducing net inward migration… then that would be likely to create additional fiscal pressures, but it could always choose to offset those pressures through additional spending cuts or tax increases’.
Between now and 2020/21, the OBR also suggests that there will be a rise of 900,000 in the number of people in work. It suggests three quarters of the increase over the next five years will be due to migration. OBR documents state: ‘Around three-quarters of the increase in employment that we forecast would be accounted for by net migration.’
Last year, Mr Osborne was accused of encouraging mass migration to help him balance the country’s books.
Last year, Mr Osborne (right) was accused of encouraging mass migration to help him balance the country’s books
Nick Timothy, former chief of staff to Home Secretary Theresa May, said the Government ‘is no longer trying’ to cut record levels of net migration – which he warned would ‘keep going up and up’.
He said the Treasury was ‘keener than ever’ on high immigration as it would help grow the economy and mitigate the effect of spending cuts across the population.
Government officials said the OBR figures were ‘scenarios not forecasts’.