“Truss to be tough on immigration”, declared a headline in the Express on 6 September. The new PM had just appointed Suella Braverman to be Home Secretary, and many interpreted this to mean that a central aim of the government would be to bring immigration numbers down.  

This is an issue that has dogged Conservative prime ministers for years, and the idea that the British government had lost control of who was coming into the country was undoubtedly a key factor in the vote for Brexit. 

It seemed at the time of Truss’s accession that she and her cabinet were, on the question of immigration, pretty unified. 

Just three weeks later it appears not. The new Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, is fixated on growth and is willing to countenance increases in immigration in certain sectors in order to generate it. 

There are reports, for instance, which suggest that caps on overseas seasonal agricultural workers and broadband engineers will be lifted. 

This morning, when asked about the likelihood of certain visa restrictions being relaxed, Chloe Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said it was “perfectly possible” that more migrants would be brought in to fill Labour shortages. 

Would this sort of thing count as being “tough”? Surely not if one takes being tough to mean allowing fewer people in. 

Braverman is uncomfortable about this. A supportive Whitehall source said, “The Home Secretary does not believe that reducing net migration needs to mean we go to lower growth. You can achieve both.” 

Reports suggest some in cabinet (Kemi Badenoch, Jacob Rees-Mogg) share Braverman’s discomfort. There are those who are in favour of a more liberal approach to immigration in order to boost the economy (Nadhim Zahawi, Ranil Jayawardena).

Truss herself is a libertarian, open to the idea that global talent must be attracted at all costs.

On a critical issue that has created havoc for the Tories before – in the Brexit era – and with Nigel Farage increasingly irate on the subject of illegal immigration, the new administration appears split. Trouble ahead.

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