The net migration statistics have, for quite a while, been an awkward quarterly occurrence that the Tories just have to sit through and pretend isn’t happening. Today’s release from the Office for National Statistics shows that David Cameron is still nowhere near hitting his pledge of driving net migration into the tens of thousands, with net long-term migration in the year to September 2015 at 323,000, up 31,000 from the previous year.
EU net migration was 172,000, with a year-on-year rise that the ONS says is not statistically significant, while non-EU net migration was 191,000, which is roughly similar to the 188,000 in the previous year. A couple of years ago, ministers had to face up to the fact that with EU migration so high, they had no chance of reaching the target, even by squeezing non-EU migration to a ridiculous extent. Then once Cameron announced his EU renegotiation, they could stall, saying that they still thought the target was important, but that they could achieve it with the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, and that’s why everyone needed to vote Conservative.
Now that the renegotiation is over, ministers are still sticking to their guns on the target. Cameron insisted in his late night press conference in Brussels that his changes would end the abuse of free movement, but he will have to spend the next four months explaining how on earth he is going to meet the target that he continues to commit to as a result of this deal that he has brought back from Brussels. Now his renegotiation is over, he has no excuses left.