The immigration monster bites back.
And still the numbers threaten to reach the previous net peak. The number one reason for this is the relative strength of the UK economy compared to the rest of Europe. The latest GDP figures out today in fact show we're once again relying on the service sector to prop the rest of the economy up, with both manufacturing and construction falling back. Whether this will have an impact on numbers down the line, with the rest of the Eurozone finally threatening to outgrow the UK remains to be seen, but it will come far too late for the EU referendum, with the Leave campaign bound to spend the next month plastering the 330,000 figure everywhere, as they have the false claim about £350m going to the EU every week.
Yet again it will be the steadfast, cowardly refusal of our frontline politicians to confront the electorate with unpalatable truths that will be to blame should the 23rd of June result in an exit vote. The Tories' unexpected majority gave them a once in a parliament opportunity to row back on their beyond idiotic "tens of thousands" pledge, one they knew they could never meet, and to make a positive case for immigration, meeting voters halfway by setting out how the areas with the biggest churn of arrivals and departures would receive extra resources to help them cope. Instead, the tens of thousands pledge, which no one believes in and no one expects to be met was reaffirmed. Knowing that it's not possible to control immigration from within the EU once the initial controls on newly joined nations' access to free movement are lifted, every other way of keeping the numbers down has been attempted. A "hostile environment" for illegal immigrants is duly being created, regardless of the potential consequences of making it impossible for those without the right to be here to work, live anywhere other than the street, or no doubt coming shortly, take a dump.
How either side is realistically doing at this point is all but impossible to tell. One poll suggests Remain pulling away; others have it either neck and neck or within the margin of error. If it's the latter, then today's figures will surely give Leave a boost after a rough couple of weeks. In truth, it's their one remaining trump, as Remain's Project Fear campaign on the economy has left Leave only able to squawk that each and every expert is either biased, has got things wrong before, or is funded by the EU itself. Monday's Treasury report might have been either specious bollocks or specious severe bollocks in the words of one MP, but it tends to be the stand out figures or warnings of a recession that stay in the memory regardless.
Hence why Leave has every right to crow about the 330,000 figure for the next month. For quite possibly the first time ever, Boris Johnson is bang on to say the tens of thousands target is variously, scandalous, cynical and a mistake. David Cameron might not have expected Boris to end up profiting from the mistake, but he knew full well that whoever the Leave side ended up consisting of they would play the immigration card for all it was worth. Nor does it matter that Leave doesn't have any real answers on how leaving the EU would help to control immigration, just as it doesn't on practically on all the other issues; unless the likes of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings got their way and took us out of the single market entirely, any subsequent deal would almost certainly continue to involve free movement, just as it does with Norway and Switzerland. Jacqui Smith poses 8 very good questions, including asking how Leave would bring immigration down at the same time as promising to ease restrictions on immigration from Commonwealth countries, yet the practicalities don't really matter. As long as the impression is that leaving would bring immigration down, support will go to Leave.
Whether it will turn out to be enough is another matter. David Davis today made a rather good speech responding to the various economic claims from Remain, in a far more temperate fashion than Leave has managed thus far. Davis's vision of a Britain renewed by leaving is a lot more realistic than the fantasy one conjured up by the likes of John Redwood, the Vulcan insisting that unless we leave we will no longer be an "independent democratic country", just as he previously repeated the idea that leaving the EU would mean we could become a veritable land of milk and honey. If there had though been any chance of having a good natured, knowledgeable debate, where those able to keep a lid on hyperbole had made the running, it went out the window with Boris. Much as Cameron and friends deserve to pay for their constant feeding of the immigration monster, the alternative hardly bears thinking about.
Moreover, should Remain win handily, no longer will UKIPers or those on the Tory right be able to claim that the public haven't been consulted on the scale of immigration. Many of them always wanted a referendum on the EU to be about immigration and little else; they've got their wish, now they'll have to accept the result. Or not, as the case will almost certainly be.