Civil servants told David Cameron migration pledge was "impossible" – former No 10 adviser Steve Hilton

Former aide to the prime minister says officials "directly and explicitly" told Downing Street EU freedom of movement would undermine pledge to bring net migration below 100,000

The former Downing Street director of strategy Steve Hilton said ministers had been advised it was "impossible for the government to meet its immigration target". Image: PA Images

By Josh May

21 Jun 2016

Civil servants “explicitly and directly” told David Cameron four years ago it would not be possible to cut net migration beneath 100,000, his former adviser Steve Hilton has claimed.

Hilton, who was the Downing Street director of strategy until 2012, wrote in Tuesday's Daily Mail that officials had made the prime minister aware that his pledge was “impossible” to fulfil while the UK remained subject to EU free movement rules – despite the target being repeated in last year’s Conservative manifesto.

“We were way off target; indeed the numbers were going in the wrong direction,” Hilton wrote.  

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“We explored various policy options – and I'm sure that process continued after I left the government in May 2012.

"But I recall very clearly one of the points that was made to us by the expert officials in the room. We were told, directly and explicitly, that it was impossible for the government to meet its immigration target as long as we remained members of the EU, which of course insists on the free movement of people within it."

Downing Street said it did not recognise the claims and questioned why the pro-Brexit Hilton had only publicised the claim this week.

The most recent official figures showed net migration stood at 333,000 last year.

Despite the huge discrepancy between the target and the current situation, Cameron has repeatedly refused to drop the ambition and said immigration could fall as the economies of other EU nations begin to grow more strongly again.

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