Rishi Sunak’s week just got even worse as net migration hit 672,000, despite his repeated promises to cut it.
The prime minister was already grappling with a flatlining economy and a string of bad press coming from the Covid Inquiry when the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed on Thursday that net migration had reached 672,000 in the 12 months to June 2023.
The ONS initially thought this broke all previous records.
However, the ONS then revised these stats and found the actual record figure was almost 140,000 higher than previously assumed – and that was recorded in the 12 months to December 2022, two months after Sunak got into office.
So this latest stat for June 2023 is not the highest ever recorded. But it’s still significantly higher than June 2022′s records, when net migration was 607,000.
The ONS estimates the net migration numbers by considering the number of UK arrivals and UK departures.
The ONS said while the latest numbers are a decline from last June’s stats, it was “too early to say if this is the start of a new downward trend”.
The Conservatives have actually been promising to reduce migration numbers since 2019 in their general election manifesto.
The Tories vowed to cut legal migration and take the “overall numbers” of migrants down from that year’s level of 226,000 people per year.
The Conservatives, who have been power since before the EU referendum, also promised to “get Brexit done” in 2019 – and one of the Brexit promises was about taking back control on migration.
And the largest surge in immigration in UK history actually happened after Brexit.
By June 2022, the number of residence visas issued over the last 12 months (1.2 million) was higher than any year since records began.
More EU nationals have moved out of the UK than arrived since the UK voted to leave the bloc, but migration from elsewhere has increased rapidly.
Sunak then made cutting illegal migration – or “stopping the small boats” – one of his five pledges at the start of January 2023.
Sunak has also vowed to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, but not a single person has been flown over there yet.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal because of the “real risk” asylum seekers would be sent back to their country of origin, which would breach international law.
But, in a rare bit of positive political news for Sunak, there have been 34.5% fewer crossings in 2023 compared to the same date in 2022.
The Times reported that the PM is looking to announce new plans to curb migration over the next week because of fury on the Tory backbenches over the issue.
Sky News reported that home secretary James Cleverly had promised the government was still “completely committed to reducing levels of legal migration, while also focusing relentlessly” on illegal migration.
From July 2019 to June 2023, the total estimated UK net migration stood at over 1.6 million.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has also estimated that an extra 150,000 migrants would arrive in the next five years – adding around 1.5 million people to the population by 2028-29.