Rishi Sunak is under huge pressure to act on legal migration into the U.K. today after figures showed that a record 1.2 million people arrived in 2022, driving a net increase of almost three-quarters of a million people in a single year. The Mail has more.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) drastically revised its figure for the year to December up from 606,000 to 745,000, an increase of 139,000, almost the same as the population of Cambridge.
The figures for the year to June 2023 hit 672,000, up from 607,000 in the previous 12 months but slightly down on the revised December record, driven by a fall in humanitarian arrivals, including those from Ukraine and Hong Kong.
The ONS said immigration is now being driven by non-EU “migrants coming for work”.
Though the level has fallen thanks to the revision, it is likely to lead to renewed anger on the Tory Right and calls for a clampdown before the country heads to the polls – which could be as early as May.
The New Conservatives group on the Tory Right has called for ministers to close temporary visa schemes for care workers and cap the number of refugees resettling in the U.K. at 20,000 as part of an effort to slash net migration to 226,000 by the time of the election expected next year.
The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised the “overall numbers will come down” on migration.
Former Cabinet Minister Sir Simon Clarke said: “This level of legal immigration is unsustainable both economically and socially. There is no public mandate for it, it is beyond our public services’ capacity to support and it undercuts U.K. productivity and wages by substituting cheaper foreign labour.
“We need an urgent change of approach. The earnings threshold for visa applications needs to be raised significantly. The shortage occupations list needs to be radically descoped. As set out by the Chancellor, we need to ensure more Britons are supported into work.”
Net migration takes into account the number of people arriving in the U.K. on a long term basis minus those who leave. Most of the recent surge has been driven by arrivals from countries such as Ukraine and Hong Kong.
The ONS’s Jay Lindop said: “Net migration to the U.K. has been running at record levels, driven by a rise in people coming for work, increasing numbers of students and a series of world events.
“‘Before the pandemic, migration was relatively stable but patterns and behaviours have been shifting considerably since then.”
“Relatively stable” at 200,000-300,000 – still a long way from the oft-repeated but never-fulfilled Conservative pledge (first made by David Cameron when he came to power in 2010) to get net numbers down to under 100,000.
Given the number of times the Tories have made this or a similar pledge to a public desperate to cut the number of people arriving each year to manageable levels, and the shameful fact that when the Tories reformed the system they liberalised it to make it easier to come rather than harder, with the predictable (and predicted) results, they deserve to lose an election on this issue alone. Sunak wrongly decided that illegal immigration in the form of the small boats crisis was what the public really cared about, and has focused on that to the neglect of legal migration – though following last week’s Supreme Court ruling he has failed even to make headway on that tip of the iceberg.
In the end, the Conservatives came to power in 2010 with a mandate to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands and reduce taxes and shrink the state. Thirteen years later they have presided over record immigration and a tax burden at historic highs shovelling billions into an even more bloated state. The scale of the failure – and betrayal – is difficult to express. But many people will do so with their vote – whether for an insurgent party like Reform, for Labour out of desperation (though it will surely be worse) or by not voting at all.
Stop Press: Leading figures on the right of the Conservative Party have warned Rishi Sunak that he faces a ‘do or die’ moment. The Mail has more.