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EU net migration equals record high of 184,000

Published 26/05/2016

Immigration figures will come under particular scrutiny ahead of the EU referendum
Immigration figures will come under particular scrutiny ahead of the EU referendum

Net long-term migration to the UK from the EU has reached the joint highest level on record, the final batch of official figures before the referendum have revealed.

The measure - the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving- was estimated at 184,000 in 2015. This is equal to the previous peak - recorded in the 12 months to March last year.

Meanwhile, overall net international migration increased to 333,000 - the second highest recorded.

It is 3,000 short of the all-time high posted last year and three times the Government's target level.

Statisticians said the rise was the result of a fall in emigration, with immigration at a similar level to the previous year.

EU net migration was up compared to the previous year, when it stood at 174,000, but this was not a "statistically significant" change.

The apparent rise was largely due to an increase in net migration of citizens from Bulgaria and Romania, from 44,000 to 58,000, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Estimated EU immigration - just the number of people coming to the UK from the bloc - was 270,000, compared to 264,000 in the previous year.

They are the final official figures on the issue to be published before next month's referendum, and prompted a fresh clash between the two camps.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire conceded net migration from outside and within the EU "remains too high".

But he insisted that leaving the EU is "absolutely no panacea or silver bullet whatever some may suggest".

Boris Johnson, who backs Brexit, said the figures mean "we are adding a population the size of Oxford to the UK every year just from EU migration", adding: "The only way to take back control of immigration is to Vote Leave."

The ONS said the net long-term migration figures, which cover people coming for at least 12 months - were "not very different" to those published in the last quarterly report.

Figures also revealed:

:: Non-EU net migration was estimated at 188,000 - a similar level to the previous year.

:: Some 308,000 people came to Britain for work - a jump of 30,000 from the previous year and the highest estimate on record.

:: Of these, 178,000 (58%) had a definite job to go to and 130,000 (42%) arrived looking for work, with the latter figure a "statistically significant" rise.

:: There were 630,000 National Insurance Number registrations by EU nationals in the year to March - roughly unchanged from the previous 12 months.

:: Using the broadest definition, short-term immigration of between one and 12 months for all reasons was 1.2 million in the year ending June 2014, a rise of 110,000 visits year-on-year.

:: In 2014, 13%, or 8.3 million, of the UK resident population were born outside the UK - up from 9%, or 5.3 million, in 2004.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said it was unclear what impact a vote to leave would have on migration.

"EU exit could mean significant new restrictions on EU migration, but it's also possible that the impact would be very small if the UK remains part of the European single market," she said.

"At the same time, staying in the EU does not mean that migration will remain at current levels forever. EU migration could be either higher or lower in the future if the UK votes to remain."

Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of campaign group Migration Watch UK, said the figures "show that no progress is being made in reducing immigration".

Chai Patel, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "Individual numbers, when taken in isolation, are poorly placed to show the positive impact that migration has had on the UK."

The figures once again placed the Government's aim of bringing net migration below 100,000 in the spotlight.

Sunder Katwala, director of thinktank British Future, said: "When both EU and non-EU net migration remain well above the 100,000 target on their own, there is no real world chance of meeting this target."

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