The reason why net migration in Britain neared a record high last year was because there was a significant drop in the number of Brits moving abroad — not because there was a massive surge in immigration.
That’s according to the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week, entitled “Migration Statistics Quarterly Report.“
Net migration is calculated on the number of people who have migrated to the UK, less the number who have left.
It showed that net migration to Britain in 2015 reached +333,000. This was a 20,000 increase on the year ending December 2014.
Predictably, politicians who are campaigning for Britain to leave the EU jumped onto the news — as it provided them an opportunity to substantiate the claim that EU membership has led to immigration spiralling out of control.
Conservative Party politician Boris Johnson described the figures as a “scandal” in an interview with the BBC. He said:
“I think that they (the figures) show the scandal of the promise made by politicians repeatedly that they could cut immigration to the tens of thousands and then to throw their hands up in the air and say there’s nothing we can do because Brussels has taken away our control of immigration.”
But, a key detail of the ONS report has effectively gone totally ignored. This is odd given that it is referred to as one of the main points of the document.
The increase in net migration was the result of a decrease in emigration, whereas immigration was at a similar level to the previous year. The decrease in emigration has been driven by a fall in the number of British citizens emigrating.
The number of Britons who moved abroad in the year ending December 2015 was 297,000. This number was a 22,000 down on the previous year.
Let’s compare that to the immigration statistics. The ONS report says that 630,000 immigrants came to Britain last year. This was an increase of just 2,000 compared to the previous year.
This isn’t to say that immigration levels aren’t high or that the number of migrants entering Britain isn’t going up.
The point is that the true driving force behind the headline figure was a significant drop in the number of Britons moving abroad — not a significant rise in the number of immigrants who arrived in Britain.
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