Are the Tories set to ditch their immigration cap?

Coalition announces review of unworkable policy.

It looks as if the Tories may finally have realised that their plan to impose a cap on immigration from outside the EU is neither desirable nor workable.

Today's Financial Times reports that the policy is under review, amid new evidence that it will damage the British economy and provoke a cabinet revolt.

George Osborne's new budgetary watchdog, the Office for Budget Reponsibility (OBR), recently cut its forecast for "trend growth" from 2.75 per cent to 2 per cent from 2014 onwards, primarily because it fears Britain's labour force will not be large enough to sustain it. The conclusion was clear: we need more babies or more immigrants.

At the same time, the OBR warned that Cameron may fail to meet his long-standing promise to "reduce net migration to tens of thousands not hundreds of thousands", a level not seen since the days of the Major government.

Immigration fell significantly during the recession (see chart), but net migration of 163,000 in 2008 indicates that Cameron would need to cut immigration by at least 38 per cent to bring the total to less than 100,000. Privately, Tories speak of an even more unrealistic target of 50,000.

Net migration chart

Cameron's promise remains unfeasible for several reasons. For a start, the government cannot limit immigration from within the EU without restricting the free movement of labour and throwing the UK's continued membership into doubt.

Cameron's policy also ignores the 39,000 people who come to the UK on spousal visas after marrying British citizens abroad.

For now, it seems the cap will be "modified" rather than abandoned, but this is still a good time to have the argument all over again.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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En français, s'il vous plaît! EU lead negotiator wants to talk Brexit in French

C'est très difficile. 

In November 2015, after the Paris attacks, Theresa May said: "Nous sommes solidaires avec vous, nous sommes tous ensemble." ("We are in solidarity with you, we are all together.")

But now the Prime Minister might have to brush up her French and take it to a much higher level.

Reuters reports the EU's lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, would like to hold the talks in French, not English (an EU spokeswoman said no official language had been agreed). 

As for the Home office? Aucun commentaire.

But on Twitter, British social media users are finding it all très amusant.

In the UK, foreign language teaching has suffered from years of neglect. The government may regret this now . . .

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.