Election 2015

UKIP on immigration: When is a target not a target?

Patrick O'Flynn Image copyright Reuters
Image caption UKIP's Patrick O'Flynn tried to keep the focus on the EU at an election press conference

At a press conference in Westminster this morning, UKIP had hoped to keep the conversation on comfortable ground.

The party issued a challenge to the other political parties over their terms for a referendum on EU membership.

Economic spokesman Patrick O'Flynn demanded David Cameron came clean on how he'd run an EU referendum, accused the Liberal Democrats of "gerrymandering" by trying to include under 18s and EU migrants in any vote, and said school children had been brainwashed by pro-European propaganda.

But despite best efforts, the press interest drifted away from the EU referendum and returned to when an immigration target is not quite an immigration target.

UKIP has denied a U-turn on this before, after Nigel Farage ruled out an immigration cap of 50,000 that his migration spokesman Steven Woolfe had previously endorsed.

'Normal levels'

Yesterday during a poster unveiling in Dover, the "immigration target" question came up again.

Mr Farage said he would like immigration to return to "normal levels".

He then said this was, in his view, between 15,000 and 50,000 people coming to Britain a year - "about 30,000".

Image copyright Pool
Image caption Nigel Farage defined "normal" levels of immigration as around 30,000 people per year

He said he thought this level could be achieved by mid-way through the next parliament, if Britain left the EU and UKIP's policy of banning unskilled migration for five years and introducing a points-based system for skilled workers was introduced.

Sounds like a target? Apparently not.

Nigel Farage said as much yesterday, and today at a Westminster-based press conference another party spokesman confirmed no such number would appear in the party's manifesto.

'No cap'

Suzanne Evans said UKIP - the party for which immigration is such a key issue - would have no cap or target at all, although she insisted its policies would see immigration figures plummet.

UKIP has said a Migration Control Commission would be set up to control the number of people moving to Britain - but there is no set target.

So despite the numbers that have been kicked around, it's not 50,000. It's not 30,000. Or, in fact, anywhere else between 15,000 and 50,000.

The policy does now seem clear, but political opponents wasted no time pointing out that for a party that wants to be trusted on immigration, it has taken a while to get this clarity on numbers.

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