David Cameron’s aim of cutting net migration to below 100,000 was dealt a devastating blow as official data confirmed the number has jumped again, reaching a record high.
The Government’s chances of achieving such a fall in the key measure appeared more remote than ever as figures showed it now stands more than three times higher than the goal.
Estimated net migration to Britain - the difference between the number of people entering and leaving the country - was 330,000 in the year to March.
This is 10,000 higher than the previous peak recorded in the year ending June 2005, when enlargement of the EU saw a surge in arrivals from eastern Europe. It was also an increase of more than a third compared to the same period last year.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire admitted the findings are “deeply disappointing”, while critics described them as a “shocking” indication that the 100,000 target would not be met.
It is the fifth consecutive quarterly rise in the index and was driven by a record 269,000 EU citizens arriving in Britain - an increase of a quarter compared to the previous year.
A jump of more than a quarter in a year took the total number of people coming to Britain for work purposes to 290,000, with the latest employment figures showing the number of EU nationals in jobs has increased by a quarter of a million in a year.
Separate data published at the same time also confirmed Britain’s foreign-born population has surpassed eight million for the first time, meaning one in eight people living here is born abroad.
MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the parliamentary home affairs committee, said the net migration figures are “shocking”. “Only one month ago Theresa May told the home affairs committee that net migration of under 100,000 was her target,” he said. “This is clearly not going to happen.”
Lord Deddington, chairman of campaign group Migration Watch UK said the figures underline the need for “serious concessions” in forthcoming negotiations over Britain’s relationship with the EU.
He added: “Net migration at one third of a million a year is clearly unsustainable.”
Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said migration levels are now comparable to levels seen in the middle of the last decade when eastern European countries including Poland and the Czech Republic joined the EU.
In 2011 Mr Cameron pledged to reduce the net migration to five figures “no ifs, no buts” in 2011.
The target was missed in the last parliament and was referred to as an “ambition” in the Tories’ election manifesto. Following the poll, Mr Cameron insisted the aim was still achievable.
The Government described the new figures as “deeply disappointing” and insisted it was taking action to control immigration into the UK.
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