Since all routes for low-skilled immigration for work are currently closed, this means Tiers 1 and 2 of the points-based system (PBS), which govern skilled immigration for work.
The government's headline objective on immigration is to reduce net immigration 'from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands'. Estimated net immigration to the UK (the surplus of people immigrating over people emigrating) in the year to December 2009 was 196,000. This means that even the most minimal interpretation of the government's objective would require net immigration to the UK to be halved.
The government has put itself in a very difficult position. There is a direct trade-off between setting the cap on Tiers 1 and 2 of the PBS at a level that is low enough to have a substantial effect on total net immigration and setting it in such a way that it doesn't damage businesses, public services, universities and our economy.
It therefore faces an unpalatable choice, between introducing a policy that it knows is damaging to the economy and public services or finding a way to abandon or redefine its currently stated policy objectives.
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