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Civil servants 'told David Cameron immigration targets were impossible'

Published 20/06/2016

Whitehall officials told David Cameron told four years ago that it was "impossible" for the Government to meet its immigration promises while Britain remained in the European Union, the Prime Minister's former policy guru has said.

Civil servants said "directly and explicitly" that the pledge to reduce net migrations to the tens of thousands would fail, according to Steve Hilton.

Just weeks ago Mr Cameron insisted he stuck by his ''ambition'' of bringing net migration into the UK - which last month hit 333,000 - below 100,000.

Mr Hilton said the premier reaffirmed his commitment to target in the 2015 general election even though he "had been told was undeliverable".

Writing in The Daily Mail, the Leave campaigner recalled the details of a meeting in the final months of his time as director of strategy.

He said: " 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."

Mr Hilton added: " You don't need to sit in a 'stock take' meeting at No 10 Downing Street to see the obvious truth: our immigration system is completely broken, and as long as we're in the EU, our elected governments are powerless to fix it.

"In the 2015 Conservative manifesto, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to the immigration target he had been told was undeliverable.

"When I saw that, I assumed this was either because he was certain he could negotiate a solution within the EU, or was assuming we would leave.

" For the Government to continue to make the promise today, after no negotiated solution was achieved and while campaigning to stay, is, I think, what (Michael) Gove and (Boris) Johnson meant when they described this as corrosive of trust in politics."

Mr Cameron's election strategist, Sir Lynton Crosby, said Thursday's vote will "come down to the wire" as polling showed a boost for the Remain campaign.

Research for The Daily Telegraph said the In camp was seven points ahead with 53% of the vote among those who intend to have their say at the ballot box.

But the Orb International study found when all voters are taken into account, the Remain lead drops to two points on 49%, compared to 47% for Leave.

"All the signs of Orb's latest and final poll point to a referendum that will truly come down to the wire," Sir Lynton said in an article for the newspaper.

" Since the start of this polling series in March, Leave has seen steady improvements across a variety of attributes, ranging from the economy to credibility.

"However, it has also failed to quash the almost ubiquitous perception that it is the riskier of the two options."

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