Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Net migration wobble caused by rising EU immigration

How fitting that on the day Angela Merkel pops in to London to natter about EU reform, new figures show a big increase in net migration driven by a rise in immigration from within the European Union to the UK.

Net migration in the year to September 2013 rose from 154,000 the previous year to 212,000. This morning, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that it was ‘absolutely the objective’ to reduce net migration to below 100,000 by 2015. But today’s figures are a blow to the government’s chances of doing that.

The problem is that while the Home Office is doing its best to control what it can control – non-EU migration fell to 141,000 last year – what it cannot control is out of control. The chart below shows a big rise in EU migration, with numbers doubling in a year.

And migrants are coming from across the EU, rather than just the newer members in the east.

These figures have naturally given Vince Cable a chance to remind everyone that this is merely a Conservative target, and that ‘any target on migration is totally impractical, cannot be delivered and would do great damage to the economy’. He wasn’t specifically referring to the problems of having a target to curb migration when you can’t curb migration from the EU, but today’s figures make that point very nicely indeed. The problem is that when Angela Merkel talked about freedom of movement today, she talked about it in terms of benefit tourism, while backing the principle itself to the hilt.

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