Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has publicly broken with Theresa May’s policy on foreign students and questioned the government’s 100,000 net migration target, opening a rift at the top of the Conservative party.
Davidson has called on her party to rethink its policies on UK immigration and have a debate that takes into account the economic benefits and pressures that the UK faces as a result of migration.
Ahead of the announcement, opponents of the Tories had already claimed the party is in “open warfare” over their UK immigration target following calls from senior cabinet figures earlier in 2017 for the Prime Minister to reduce the figure.
Ms Davidson’s comments are set to be viewed as a further challenge to Mrs May’s leadership and even as support for May’s line of potential replacements, including current Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who has also suggested the party’s UK immigration target should change.
In fact, Ms Davidson has publicly highlighted the party’s failure to reduce the country’s net migration figure down to the level stated in any year since the target was first introduced in 2010. Instead, she argued that Brexit should be seen as an opportunity to review the target and re-evaluate the country’s overall stance on immigration.
“Brexit is a big reset button and should - in theory - make that much easier to do so. But we have to ask whether the target continues to be the right one?,” she said.“The great problem is that the two principles of our immigration policy - public trust and business need for skilled foreign workers - appear to be in conflict. But they don’t need to be.”