A record number of EU immigrants came to the UK in 2014, figures show, delivering a significant blow to David Cameron’s pledge to reduce net migration.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed 268,000 EU citizens came to the country last year – the highest ever number.
The disclosure that the number of EU migrants coming to the country is at an all time high will put significant pressure on Mr Cameron as he looks to renegotiate Britain’s deal with the EU to help stem the flow of immigrants to the UK. Around 45% of immigrants living here are from the EU.
The figures were described by the ONS as “statistically significant”.
It comes as the Prime Minister announces a raft of measures to clampdown on illegal immigrants, including seizing the wages of those living here illegally and deporting people before their appeal is heard and tagging those due for deportation.
However, this will have no impact on the net migration figures because the Government freely admits it does not know how many people are living in the UK illegally.
Speaking to Sky News Home Secretary Theresa May said there were a “significant” number of illegal immigrants in the country but she was unable to give a figure.
Mrs May said: “No official figures have ever been put on illegal immigrants but obviously we are enhancing our ability through exit checks to identify those who have left the country and therefore identify overstayers. We are looking at significant numbers.”
She added: “We want to extend the (deportation rules) so that people who have no right to be here but are able to appeal have to leave the country first so they can be deported and then appeal from outside the country.”
immigrants comes from a study commissioned by London Mayor Boris Johnson when he was considering an amnesty for illegal immigrants.
The report by the London School of Economics estimated there were between 400,000 and 900,000 people living in Britain illegally.
Mr Cameron is using one of his first major speeches since the election today to reaffirm his ambition to bring net migration below 100,000.
He will say: “A strong country isn’t one that pulls up the drawbridge … it is one that controls immigration.
“Because if you have uncontrolled immigration, you have uncontrolled pressure on public services.
“And that is a basic issue of fairness.
“Uncontrolled immigration can damage our labour market and push down wages. It means too many people entering the UK legally but staying illegally.
“The British people want these things sorted.”
But Steve Ballinger, from the think tank British Future, told Sky News the measures would not bring down the numbers.
He said: “If you’ve promised to get the net migration system down most of those people are here legally so that isn’t going to have a huge impact.
“If he has got a plan to get net migration down, he should come out and say what it is.”