Open Europe Blog

The ONS has this morning released its latest long-term UK migration statistics and they are likely to increase the intensity of the spotlight on EU migration – if that was possible. The headline statistics are:

  • 560,000 people immigrated to the UK in the year ending March 2014, a statistically significant increase from 492,000 in the previous 12 months. Two-thirds of the increase is accounted for by immigration of EU citizens (up 44,000 to 214,000).
  • 28,000 Romanian and Bulgarian citizens immigrated to the UK in the year ending March 2014, a significant increase from 12,000 in the previous 12 months.
  • This contributed to overall net migration rising to 243,000 from 175,000 the previous year, way over the totemic 100,000 figure targeted by Conservative ministers.
  • It is also interesting to note that the decline in non-EU migration (the part the Government can control) seems to have stopped. The latest estimates for the year ending suggest that 265,000 non-EU citizens immigrating to the UK, a slight increase but not a statistically significant change, from 246,000 in the previous year. Net migration of non-EU citizens increased from an estimated 145,000 in the year ending March 2013 to 162,000 in the year ending March 2014.
Source: ONS

These estimates show that 54%, 30% and 14% of total EU immigration was accounted for by citizens of the EU15 (the ‘old’ EU member states), EU8 (central and eastern member states that joined in 2004) and EU2 (Bulgaria and Romania) respectively. Overall net migration of EU citizens was 131,000, a statistically significant increase compared to 95,000 in the previous year.

This highlights, once again, that a large part of the recent increase in EU migration is being driven by migration from the more established EU member states, presumably a large number of them looking for an alternative to the high levels of unemployment in the countries worst affected by the eurozone crisis.

In contrast, migration from the 2004 accession states has been relatively stable. Net migration from these countries was 41,000, not a statistically significant increase compared to the 34,000 in the previous year. For Bulgaria and Romania, it looks as though the ending of transitional controls on access to the UK labour market in January 2014 could have had some impact with a 12,000 increase in migration on the previous year (although we should be careful since this data mostly reflects 2013), and almost 80% of EU2 citizens arriving for work-related reasons.

Yesterday saw the German government announce tough new domestic rules on EU migrants’ access to benefits, which closely mirror those announced by David Cameron late last month. Downing Street has welcomed the German proposals and added, “Clearly there is now a case for looking at other things we want to do where we may need to change the [EU] rules”. The question now is whether Cameron can muster enough European support to change the EU rules in this area sufficiently to satisfy public and political opinion in Britain.

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