October 22, 2016

EU referendum: Migration data to spark debate

Leave campaigners say immigration is putting an unbearable strain on public services

The final statistics before June’s referendum on levels of EU migration into the UK are to be published later.
The Office for National Statistics data is expected to spark a fierce debate between Remain and Leave camps.
One prominent Tory MP has labelled the EU a “job transfer machine”, claiming EU migrants are taking jobs which could be going to British workers.
But Remain supporter Lord Blunkett will say that EU co-operation is the only “rational” way of managing migration.
Thursday’s figures, to be published at 09:30 BST, will show estimated levels of long-term migration into the UK from within the EU and outside in the year to December 2015. The data covers migrants staying in the UK for at least a year.
It will also indicate the overall level of net migration – the difference between the number of people remaining in the UK and those leaving.
An estimated 257,000 EU migrants came to the UK in the year to September 2015, 11,000 higher than the year before.
Net EU migration rose by 14,000 to 172,000 as overall net migration rose to 323,000 – the second highest level since figures were first recorded.
The government has failed to make progress towards its goal of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands, which critics blame on its inability to regulate numbers from across Europe.
The left-leaning IPPR think tank said Thursday’s figures would “pose challenges” for both sides in the referendum debate.
“We expect the Leave campaign to use this as further evidence that leaving the EU is the only way of bringing down historically high migration,” said its associate director Phoebe Griffith.
“Yet there is no denying two realities – first that migration from Europe is running at historically high levels, and second that certain sectors in our economy have become heavily reliant on a temporary workforce from the EU.”
There are about two million citizens of other EU countries currently working in the UK, according to the latest Labour Force Survey.
Details of short-term migration, looking at people who moved in or out of the UK for up to a year in 2014, will also be published on Thursday, as will the latest figures for visas granted by the Home Office and new National Insurance numbers registered.
Figures published by the ONS earlier this month showed 1.2 million more EU migrants have got National Insurance numbers in the past five years than have shown up in the official immigration statistics – a discrepancy seized upon by critics of current immigration policy.
Speaking on Wednesday, Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary David Davis said EU migration had absorbed a million of the 2.5 million jobs created in the UK in the last five years.
“Britain, not the EU, is the job creation machine,” he said.
“The EU is in fact a job transfer machine – switching employment from British workers to those from the continent.”
But in a speech later – his first of the referendum campaign – former Labour Home Secretary Lord Blunkett will defend the last Labour government’s controversial record on immigration and criticise those who he says want to create a “fortress Britain”.

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