The figures were released by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday 22nd May 2014, the same day as the elections for the European Parliament are taking place in the UK. They will take place throughout the EU between 22nd and 24th May. The figures were thought likely to give a small boost to the anti-immigration UK Independence Party.
The net migration figure is calculated by finding the number of people arriving in the UK as immigrants over any given period and subtracting the number of people leaving the country over the same period as emigrants. Migrants (immigrants and emigrants) are defined by the United Nations as people who move to another country expecting to stay for a year.
In the year to December 2013, 526,000 people arrived in the UK as migrants and 314,000 people left the UK to live elsewhere.
The figures show a great increase in the number of people coming to the UK from the EU. 201, 000 people came from the EU, up 43,000 on the figure for the year to September 2013.
There was a drop of 11,000 in the number of non-EU migrants arriving in the UK and a drop of 7,000 in the number of UK residents emigrating.
Tens of thousands
The figures show that it will be extremely hard for the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, to honour his pledge to cut immigration to 'tens of thousands' by the time of the UK general election in May 2015.
This is because the UK cannot, as a member of the EU, prevent EU citizens from coming to work in the UK. The figures show that there were significant increases in the numbers of people coming to the UK to work from many EU countries.
Number of new National Insurance numbers issued by country
Number of new NI numbers
Rise on previous year
Mr Cameron became prime minister in 2010 having promised during the election campaign to cut annual net immigration from its then level of around 250,000 a year to 'tens of thousands'.
His government has
- Closed the Tier 1 (General) visa stream. This visa allowed skilled professionals to work freely in the UK for any employer (including on a self-employed basis)
- Closed the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa stream. This visa allowed foreign graduates of UK universities to work in the UK for any employer (including on a self-employed basis) for two years after graduation. If during that time, they found a job they could then transfer to Tier 2
- Imposed a cap of 20,700 on the number of Tier 2 (General) skilled worker visas that could be issued annually. There is no cap on the number of Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas.
- Removed the sponsorship licences of 700 'bogus' colleges which were, the government said, 'selling immigration not education'.
- Introduced a minimum income requirement for any British national or permanent resident wishing to bring their spouse to live with them in the UK. Britons must earn at least £18,600 before they can do so.
EU free movement of labour
However, none of these changes have affected EU citizens who do not need visas to work in the UK anyway.
- Critics of Mr Cameron's immigration policy claim that it has damaged the UK economy. They say that Tier 1 visa holders tend to be well-educated people who are a benefit to the economy
- Tier 2 workers have the skills that British businesses need
- Tier 4 student visa holders contribute more than £10bn annually to the UK economy consisting mainly of tuition fees and living costs. The number of international students at UK universities has fallen slightly from 180,000 to 177,000.
Mr Cameron will draw some comfort from the fact that the figure has not risen, as many analysts were predicting.
Damaging to the UK economy
The number of skilled workers and students from outside the EU has fallen which must be damaging to the UK's economy while the number of migrants from within the EU has risen.
This concentration on reducing the headline figure is not only doomed to failure. It is damaging to the UK's economy.
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