EU Referendum

Reality Check: Is immigration hopelessly out of control?

Nigel Farage saying: Migration to the UK is out of control and will get worse if Britain remains in the EU.

The claim: Migration to the UK is out of control and will get worse if Britain remains in the EU.

Reality Check verdict: Net migration is still at near-record levels. Just over half of it comes from outside the EU. The government has not managed to bring migration from outside the EU down to tens of thousands as the 2010 and 2015 manifestos promised, so it is not clear it would be able to do so with EU migrants post-Brexit.

A lot of people are migrating to the UK, and fewer people are leaving.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes figures on long-term migration every three months, and these basic facts haven't changed for years.

Overall net migration stands at 333,000, and has risen more than a third since David Cameron came to power in 2010, with the aim of reducing numbers to tens of thousands a year.

If you exclude Brits from the figures, things look even worse for the government's targets. Last year, 373,000 more non-Brits came to live in the UK than left, a 45% increase on 2010.

With the referendum fast approaching, campaigners such as Nigel Farage say that immigration can only be brought back down to the tens of thousands if we leave the EU. While the UK can decide which immigrants it accepts from outside the EU, almost anyone from within the EU is entitled to come and live here.

While the rest of the EU accounts for about 6% of the world's population, it's now the source of about 49% of UK net migration. That's up from 29% five years earlier, mainly because non-EU migration has steadied off, while EU migration has increased. It may be that the accession of new EU members has fuelled that rise.

Home Secretary Theresa May said last month that the EU's free movement rules make controlling immigration "harder".

But would leaving the EU really mean immigration came crashing down? In theory, the UK could put a block on any more EU citizens coming to live here, and that could cut the net migration figures in half at a stroke.

But if that were going to happen to EU migrants, why hasn't it already happened to non-EU migrants?

The UK isn't bound to accept them by any international treaties, but nevertheless let 277,000 of them move over last year alone.

Three quarters of immigrants move to the UK for work or study, and the ratio is much the same for EU migrants. According to figures from Oxford University, nearly 60% of EU migrants coming over for work have got a job lined up before they arrive.

Also, it is possible that a deal to retain access to the single market would require the UK to maintain freedom of movement for EU citizens wanting to come here to work.

Unemployment rates have been falling more or less constantly for the past five years, and if the economy remains healthy the UK is likely to need just as many workers in future.


Read more: The facts behind claims in the EU debate


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