SUELLA Braverman has been accused of being “soulless” after making a speech calling for less immigration to the UK.

Speaking at the National Conservatism Conference on Monday – and interrupted by two Extinction Rebellion protesters – the Home Secretary said there was “no good reason” the UK cannot train its own workforce of lorry drivers and fruit pickers.

She also argued it was "not racist" to want to control borders and said her "ultimate aspiration" is to reduce net migration to below 100,000.

It is expected to hit 700,000 this year.

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The Scottish Greens condemned the speech, saying of Braverman: “It is clear this soulless Home Secretary is choosing to put votes over lives.”

Her speech, which will be seen as a warning to Cabinet colleagues against relaxing immigration visa rules in a bid to boost growth, comes as Rishi Sunak grapples with signs of discontent and division with his party’s ranks.

Braverman said she rejects the argument that it is hypocritical for her, as someone from an ethnic minority, to push for lower migration.

She said: “While illegal migration is rightly our priority given the acute challenges that we face in the Channel, we must not lose sight of the importance of controlling legal migration as well.

“It’s not xenophobic to say that mass and rapid migration is unsustainable in terms of housing supply, public services or community relations. Nor is it bigoted to say that we have too many asylum seekers in this country for whom we have insufficient accommodation.

“That absorbing more and more people means building more and more homes is another one of those unfashionable facts that the open-borders brigade would say means we’re starting a culture war.

“It’s not racist for anyone, ethnic minority or otherwise, to want to control our borders. I reject the left’s argument that it’s hypocritical for someone from an ethnic minority, like mine, to know these facts or to speak these truths.”

There has been speculation of a split in Sunak’s Cabinet on immigration, with some members – including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt – more keen than others to stress the benefits of migration for economic growth.

It comes as the horticulture industry has suffered labour shortages since the UK left the EU, made even worse by the pandemic.

The Pick for Britain campaign aimed at recruiting UK-based workers for seasonal farm roles was scrapped in 2021 after a relatively small number of people signed up to it.

​​Downing Street said Braverman’s comments on cutting net migration were in line with the Government’s approach.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “She continues to represent the UK Government views on all issues relating to the Home Office, as you would expect.”

The spokesman added: “We want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on overseas labour as part of building a high-wage and high-skilled economy and we are supporting those industries in doing that.”

The 2019 Tory manifesto promised control over immigration and that “overall numbers will come down”.

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But asked about what level the numbers would come down from, the spokesman said: “I don’t think we’ve set out a baseline.”

Scottish Greens justice spokesperson Maggie Chapman condemned Braverman’s remarks. She said: “This isn’t about whether or not we have enough cheap foreign hands available to pick our fruits, clean our beds and drive our lorries as the Home Office seems to think.

“This is about life and death.

“With a General Election looming it is clear this soulless Home Secretary is choosing to put votes over lives, and she must be held accountable for every death that occurs because of her inability to understand the human cost of her actions.

“Suella Braverman would rather watch refugees and migrants die in dinghies or be banished at borders and not shed a single tear for the children who are found drowned on our shorelines because she said to them: 'No, we don’t want you!'.

“I implore her and the UK Government to stop and think again, to put politics aside and to see what is happening. This is no longer about numbers and borders, it is about right and wrong and the value of human life. They need to wake up to that reality now.”

“The Scottish Greens believe in offering a hand of hope and friendship to those in need, those fleeing terror, those forced from their homes, those with nowhere left to run.

“Scotland would embrace them, lift them up, give them homes knowing that they have so much to give us too as they work hard, build new lives, support our economies and make us all the richer in having chosen here to live.”