EU net migration is likely to run at over 100,000, and possibly even 130,000 a year, according to a new report. That is equivalent to the population of Manchester coming to settle in the UK every four years.
The report by pressure group MigrationWatchUK says that while the government’s policy may have brought non-EU migration down significantly, from 217,000 a year to 140,000 a year, the number of people leaving remains steady at about 70,000 per year. Add in the number of immigrants arriving from within the EU and you get a figure of around 200,000 a year.
This is far higher than the government’s target of “tens of thousands a year”, and would increase the UK population by 5 to 8 million over the next 20 years.
The report suggests the government can tackle this by renegotiating a new settlement with other EU countries where the benefits system would be closed off from newly-arrived immigrants for the first five years they’re in the country. This would remove one of the biggest incentives for EU migrants to come here.
Currently, workers from Romania and Bulgaria earn more than four times what they would back home, even if they’re on the minimum wage, thanks to tax credits and housing benefit. If they have a dependent spouse and children, that figure can rise to nine times what they’d earn in their home countries.
Cutting these benefits would therefore remove some of the incentives for mass immigration, but, the report concedes, not all of them.
Finally, the report warns that if immigration rises to the levels it predicts, there would be increasing tensions over our EU membership as we struggle to control our borders.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatchUK said: “The good news is that immigration from outside the EU is coming down steadily as the government have promised. The bad news is that migrants from the EU have driven the policy off course.
“It was crazy to have opened up our labour market and our benefit system to one hundred million people from countries with a standard of living less than a quarter of our own. There must now be a determined renegotiation.”