Alan Travis — The Guardian August 27, 2015
The politically sensitive figure, which estimates the net flow of people in and out of Britain, stood at 318,000 in the last set of quarterly figures published in May just after the general election.
This was just 2,000 below the 320,000 record high in net migration recorded in 2005, soon after Poland and other east European states joined the EU. The net migration figure is politically significant since David Cameron renewed the Conservatives pledge to reduce it to the “tens of thousands” immediately after the general election.
The latest quarterly migration figures, covering the 12 months to March 2015, published on Thursday are expected to show that the number of foreign-born people living in Britain has passed the eight million mark for the first time and that more than three million of them have become British citizens since arriving in the UK.
The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, announced further details of the government’s forthcoming immigration bill earlier this week, including measures to imprison migrants found to be working illegally and to temporarily close down businesses that are found to be employing illegal labour.
The impact of the Calais migrant crisis has driven immigration to the top of voters’ concerns according to an Ipsos Mori poll earlier this month with more than 50% of voters naming it as a major issue issue facing the country. This was an eight point jump compared with the June poll in the same series.
Mark Hilton, immigration policy director at London First, said: “The business community wants the government to tone down its anti-migration rhetoric. Migration is an important part of being in a thriving, modern economy.
“As we’ve seen in recent days, the global economy remains fragile, so now is not the time to pull up the drawbridge to the type of global talent that will help drive our economic growth.
“Immigrants are job creators, allowing British businesses to expand into new markets, by bringing specialist skills. So far from taking our jobs, they actually create more of them.”
The Institute of Directors echoed the warning to the government not to pull up the drawbridge and backed a call from the migration thinktank British Future for a comprehensive review of the UK’s immigration needs and the impact on the economy, culture and society.
Simon Walker, the IoD’s director general, said: “By announcing polices on the hoof every time new figures come out, the government betrays its lack of a long-term plan on migration. Scrabbling around to find measures to hit a bizarre and unachievable migration target is no way to give British businesses the stable environment they need.
“Combined with ministers’ increasingly strong rhetoric on immigration, the UK’s reputation as an open, competitive economy is under threat.”
British Future’s Sunder Katwala said a comprehensive immigration review would set out “what’s possible and what isn’t. It could also give the public more of a say in what happens – providing impartial facts about the impacts of different policies on the economy, society and public services.”