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David Cameron hints at immigration concession

British Prime Minister David Cameron has hinted that he may not follow through with a plan to impose a limit on the number of skilled migrants allowed from outside Europe – marking a possible climbdown on an election pledge.

world Updated: Nov 15, 2010 23:21 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

British Prime Minister David Cameron has hinted that he may not follow through with a plan to impose a limit on the number of skilled migrants allowed from outside Europe – marking a possible climbdown on an election pledge.

He told a meeting of British business leaders on Monday, “As we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world.”

Cameron’s remarks, made in his first speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) since taking office in May, come amid continuing divisions in his cabinet on the issue of migration.

With Britain powerless to do anything about migration from the 27 countries of the European Union, whose citizens are free to move about and work in the region, home minister Theresa May has recommended bringing down the number of non-EU migrants by 24,100.

The bulk of these migrants come from India, including thousands of skilled migrants, and May’s plans are strongly opposed by British business leaders and business minister Vince Cable. The absence of skills could drive businesses out and affect economic growth just when Britain is emerging from a recession, they argue.

BI director Richard Lambert told the meeting: “The government must now focus on how to attract more investment to the UK if we are to create new jobs and grow the economy. The UK is still perceived to be an attractive place to invest compared to many other countries, but is seen to have lost ground in recent years, and is lagging behind the US, China and India.”

Downing Street spokeswoman said Cameron's comments did not reflect any change in policy.