At 248,000, net immigration to the United Kingdom in 2016 remains roughly two-and-a-half times higher than the Conservative Party promised in 2010, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.
The Conservative Party promised to bring net immigration down “from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands” in its 2010 manifesto. This pledge was repeated in the party’s 2015 manifesto and its manifesto for the upcoming snap election on June 8th.
However, whilst the ONS estimates that gross immigration in the year before the Tories came to power was 567,000, and net immigration 229,000, the statistical body’s provisional estimates for the year ending in December 2016 show a gross figure of 588,000 and a net figure of 248,000.
As Home Secretary under the David Cameron administration, immigration was Theresa May’s area of particular responsibility for many years.
Recalling that “in the 1990s net migration to Britain was consistently in the tens of thousands each year” in a 2010 speech, May chastised the previous Labour government for allowing net migration to run “close to 200,000 a year, for most years since 2000”.
“As a result, over Labour’s time in office net migration totalled more than 2.2 million people – more than double the population of Birmingham. We can’t go on like this.”
(In fact, an ONS investigation in 2014 revealed that immigration during this period was significantly undercounted, and actually ran well over 200,000 every year after 2003.)
Whilst the 2016 migration estimates are somewhat down on 2015, the ONS states this was “was driven by a statistically significant increase in emigration”, which was 40,000 higher than in 2015.
The 43,000 decrease in gross immigration was deemed “not statistically significant”.
Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK, said the fact there had been any reduction at all was “welcome, but it is still running at a quarter of a million a year – a level that would have once have been dismissed as incredible”.
He added: “This means, broadly, a UK population increase of nearly half a million, every year. This is not a situation that can be allowed to slide … if the growing strains on our public services and society are to be relieved.”
Slight falls in migration were previously achieved in 2011 – from 256,000 to 205,000 – and in 2012 – from 205,000 to 177,000.
These drops later proved to be aberrations, however, with numbers lifting back up to 209,000 in 2013 and rocketing to first 313,000 and then 332,000 in 2014 and 2015.
Tory heavyweight George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and current editor of the Evening Standard, revealed that the Tories never intended to keep their “tens of thousands” pledge in a shock comment piece titled ‘It’s time to scrap the Tory migration cap’.
“Over the past seven years, the Government has not been able to reduce significantly the numbers of non-Europeans coming here — though we could,” he boasted, confessing that “[N]one of [the Cabinet’s] senior members supports the pledge in private and all would be glad to see the back of something that has caused the Conservative Party such public grief.”