Rishi Sunak was warned that the Tories face a ‘do or die’ moment to act on immigration today after shock revised figures showed a net increase of almost three-quarters of a million people in 2022.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) drastically increased its figure for the year to December up from 606,000 to 745,000, a rise of 139,000, almost the same as the population of Cambridge.
The figures for the year to June 2023 hit 672,000, up from 607,000 in the previous 12 months but slightly down on the revised December record, driven by a fall in humanitarian arrivals, including those from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.
The ONS said the increase was being driven mainly by non-EU ‘migrants coming for work … largely attributed to those coming on health and care visas’. However the largest overall contributor to non-EU migration was students.
In the year to June 2023, the top five non-EU nationalities were: Indian (253,000), Nigerian (141,000), Chinese (89,000), Pakistani (55,000) and Ukrainian (35,000). The figures for China are mainly from Hong Kong on humanitarian grounds, like those from Ukraine.
Though the June level has fallen thanks to the revision, the overall situation led to renewed anger on the Tory right and calls for a clampdown before the country heads to the polls – which could be as early as May. The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised the ‘overall numbers will come down’ on migration.
In a statement the New Conservatives, who are lead by right-wing backbenchers Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger, warned: ‘The word ”existential” has been used a lot in recent days but this really is ”do or die” for our party.
‘Each of us made a promise to the electorate. We don’t believe that such promises can be ignored.’
‘At the last election, every Conservative MP was elected on a solemn promise to reduce net migration, which in 2019 stood at 229,000 per year. Since then, in poll after poll, the public have made clear that they are prepared to support tough measures to clamp down on overall migration numbers: legal and illegal,’ they said.
‘Yet, over the course of this Parliament, many on our benches have warned that we were failing to make adequate progress on our promise…
‘Net migration has not only failed to fall since 2019, it has trebled. A million new people from abroad were added to the UK population last year. Across every single category of immigration, numbers are on the rise. We cannot blame exceptional circumstances; this is a consistent trend. It has been caused directly by the policy decisions of this Government. And it has gone on for far too long.’
Former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke added: ‘This level of legal immigration is unsustainable both economically and socially. There is no public mandate for it, it is beyond our public services’ capacity to support and it undercuts UK productivity and wages by substituting cheaper foreign labour.