Net migration to the UK hit 323,000 last year, leaving the Government’s pledge to get the figure below 100,000 yet again in tatters.
Figures released by the Office of National Statistics today showed that in the 12 months to September 2015, 617,000 migrants came to the UK – up 2,000 on the year before
Over the same period, 294,000 people left the UK – a drop of 29,000 on the previous 12 months.
Of the migrants who came to the UK, 257,000 were from the European Union.
- Of the 290,000 people who came to the UK for work, 59 per cent (170,000) had a definite job to go to.
- Of the 165,000 EU citizens who came for work-related reasons, 96,000 (58 per cent) came for a definite job and 69,000 (42 per cent) came looking for work.
- Some 45,000 Bulgarians and Romanians came to the UK for "work-related reasons", up 18,000 on the previous year. Around two-thirds (28,000) arrived with a definite job to go to, an increase of 17,000 from September 2014.
- As of December 2015, there are an estimated 2million EU nationals working in the UK - 215,000 higher than the same period last year.
- Non-EU nationals in employment increased by 38,000 to 1.2million, while the total number of British nationals in employment increased by 278,000 to 28.3million. Therefore, nearly half of the growth in employment over the last year was accounted for by foreign nationals.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: "As I've said for years, we cannot control immigration into Britain while we remain inside the EU. The government pledge to reduce net migration to tens of thousands continues to be laughable.
"I am pleased that there are now lots of voices agreeing with me, that we must leave the European Union to control our borders.
"It should also be noted that the Romanian and Bulgarian figures have gone up significantly by 55,000 in the year ending September 2015, even higher than I predicted."
Immigration is set to be one of the key issues in the EU referendum, with Mr Farage putting the issue front and centre of the debate.
An Ipsos/MORI poll published last month showed immigration was the number one concern facing voters, with 48 per cent citing it as the top issue in the UK today.
The NHS came second on 38 per cent.
Home Secretary Theresa May renewed the Government’s pledge to get net migration down below 100,000 in July last year, and said: “It’s the same target. The aim is to meet it by the end of the five year Parliament.
“It is certainly the case that there are certain measures that we will be able to put into the Immigration Bill we are bringing forward that we would have wished to introduce prior to the election that we weren’t able to because we were in coalition government.”
Today, the Institute of Directors called for the Government to launch a Comprehensive Migration Review in response to the latest figures.
The IOD's Seamus Nevin said: “These figures show, yet again, why a net migration target makes absolutely no sense.
"The fact that 94% of the year-on-year increase in net migration is accounted for not by an increase in people coming here, but by a fall in the numbers leaving, shows the futility of trying to measure ‘net’ migration.
"It means the Government’s attempts to hit its arbitrary target are reliant not just on reducing the numbers arriving here but on increasing the number of people leaving this country as well.
“Ironically, if the UK economy tanked and Britons emigrated in large numbers it would make the target more achievable."