David Cameron’s pledge to cut immigration is in ruins after net annual migration soared to more than a quarter of a million.
Official figures this morning showed net migration rose to 260,000 in the 12 months to June, compared with 182,000 the previous year.
Before the election Mr Cameron promised to reduce the figure from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands and asked to be judged on whether he hit the target.
His Liberal Democrat deputy, Nick Clegg, hit out at the Prime Minister today for undermining public confidence in the immigration system by “over-promising and under-delivering” on the issue.
Today’s figures show net migration is now running at higher levels than the Government inherited from Labour.
They will add to the pressure over immigration on the Prime Minister, who is set to outline proposals within days for limiting migration from the EU.
The bulk of the new arrivals are economic migrants from the EU – principally from Eastern Europe as well as Mediterranean countries – who have full entitlement to work in Britain.
Reacting to the figures, the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, said they were proof of the need to limit freedom of movement within the EU.
But Nick Clegg turned on Tory Coalition partners, saying that their failure to meet Mr Cameron’s migration target, which his party had opposed, would undermine public confidence in the immigration system.
“This was a Conservative preoccupation. They made that promise. They have now broken that promise and they will have to suffer the embarrassment of having done so,“ he said.
“It does damage public confidence in the immigration system by over-promising and under-delivering in this way.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, 583,000 people moved to the UK over the period, a “statistically significant increase” from the 502,000 in the previous 12 months. It included a 45,000 rise from the EU and 30,000 from outside the EU.
Net migration to the UK – the difference between those arriving and leaving – was 260,000 in the period, up from 182,000 in the previous 12 months, as 323,000 people emigrated from the country.
The figures come after the Home Secretary, Theresa May, conceded at the weekend that flows from the EU had disrupted efforts to reduce the net annual figure to below 100,000 and it was “unlikely” the target would be reached by the end of this parliament.
In separate figures, the ONS reported a significant increase, from 32,000 to 18,000 in numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians arriving in the UK.
The number of National Insurance numbers issued to foreign nationals rose by 12 per cent to 668,000 in the year highest numbers of National Insurance number registrations were issued to Romanians (104,000) and Poles (98,000).
Barbara Roche, chair of the cross-party group, the Migration Matters Trust, said: “Today’s migration figures carry a warning to all of the parties for the next election: promise what you can deliver and deliver what you promise.
“The public is already cynical about the mainstream parties’ policies on immigration and committing to unachievable targets makes matters worse.”
Carlos Vargas-Silva, acting director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: “The Government's own data showed in 2011 that their policies were not expected to reduce immigration by enough to hit the target.
“So we have been watching a result that we have expected for three years unfold in slow motion,” Dr Varga-Silva said.
“Increased EU net migration has certainly meant the degree by which the target is missed will be much higher, but it is clear that the target would have been missed with or without this increase, as non-EU net migration alone is way over 100,000.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies