LONDON — Defence minister Michael Fallon admitted on Thursday evening that the Conservatives have not attempted to cost their manifesto pledge to cut immigration by two-thirds, a policy which academics estimate will force the UK to borrow billions of pounds extra every year.
Speaking on BBC Newsnight, Fallon repeatedly refused to describe the pledge to cut immigration below 100,000 as a "policy" — despite its inclusion in the party's general election manifesto — and referred to it instead as an "aim" and an "ambition."
Asked if the party had costed the proposal, Fallon said: "There’s been various academic work done on the cost of immigration. We’ve made it clear that we accept there is a cost and we want to make sure that British companies do contribute to the training of British workers when they want to fill that post."
The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that the UK will have to borrow an extra £6 billion a year by 2020 to make up for to decline in immigration — an estimate which assumes the government will fall well short of its pledge to cut immigration below 100,000.
Pressed by presenter Evan Davis on the cost of the proposal, Fallon said: "We haven’t set out a formulation of how much it’ll reduce by each year, what we’ve set out is our ambition to continue to bear down on immigration."
"We’ve made it clear that we accept there is a cost and we want to make sure that British companies do contribute to the training of British workers when they want to fill that post," he said.
Asked to define the difference between an "ambition" and a "policy," Fallon said: "Well it’s our aim to continue to bear down on immigration ... It is an aim and we intend to continue to aim to reduce the level of immigration as we’ve set out."
On Wednesday, the Conservatives responded to the launch of the Labour manifesto by attacking the party's fiscal credibility, with Chancellor Philip Hammond suggesting on Wednesday that analysis had identified a "£58 billion black hole" in Labour's manifesto pledges.
Many of the policy proposals in the Conservatives' own manifesto, launched on Thursday, appear to be uncosted.
Watch the full exchange here: