The good news for the Government is that net migration is down. The bad news? It’s down by so little (a fall of 9,000 to a total of 327,000) that you won’t hear anyone crowing about today’s figures. That the ‘tens of thousands’ target made by the Government still hasn’t been met is no surprise at all. And we can expect to see a continuation of the semantic shift from that Tory ‘promise‘ down to a ‘pledge‘. So apart from telling us that, as far as net migration is concerned, it’s business as usual, what do today’s figures show us?
For one, they make it clear that solving this issue won’t be easy for the Prime Minister. Net migration from certain EU countries like Romania and Bulgaria is at a record high. But the continued influx of migrants into Britain is about more than just the EU: immigration of EU citizens (268,000) remains lower than that of non-EU citizens (282,000), according to the Office of National Statistics. This shows that whilst the referendum was won for ‘Leave’ because of immigration, this issue won’t be solved in the minds of many voters purely by Theresa May negotiating a good deal with the EU.
By a different measure, though, it’s plain that being a member of the EU does push up Britain’s net migration levels significantly. Short-term migration is not taken into account in the headline figures. This means that those from the EU who come into Britain and stay for less than a year don’t appear amongst the 268,000 (or the 327,000 figure). But they do show up in the data which reveals the numbers who have registered for National Insurance numbers: this tally makes it clear the EU remains a source of massive (short-term) migration to the UK.