The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released the latest immigration figures which show that immigration remains near record levels.
Net migration has dropped to 273,000 in the year to September, down 49,000 from the previous year. This is not a “significantly significant” decrease.
The news comes despite the government’s promise to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands in the face of public concern over the scale of immigration.
Concerns in 2013
In late 2013, there were concerns over the lifting of immigration restrictions on Romania and Bulgaria, with some anticipating mass immigration from those countries.
Those who anticipated large-scale immigration were mocked for their concerns. “Where are the hordes?“, they were asked, as soon as the border was opened on 1 January 2014. “Where is the flood?”
Nigel Farage was ridiculed for suggesting that 50,000 Romanians and Bulgarians could arrive in Britain per year. In the run up to the 2014 European Elections, the BBC’s Nick Robinson implied in a television report that Farage’s prediction was deliberately misleading. Meanwhile, Conservative Immigration Minister Mark Harper suggested that Romanians and Bulgarians would be more likely to go to Italy or Spain than to Britain.
In fact, there was every reason to believe that Britain – with its booming economy, international language, and openness – would draw large numbers. Meanwhile, Spain and Italy were in crisis, with significant youth unemployment and a growing number of people emigrating to Britain.
Farage underestimated the latest figures
The latest data shows that immigration from Romania and Bulgaria was greater than 50,000 for the year to September 2016. Farage has responded to the new figures:
“I have to apologize right now to the nation because in 2014, I said when we opened the doors to Romania and Bulgaria that I thought up to 50,000 people a year might come. I was of course condemned and laughed at…
“But I now apologise. The figure for the last year is 74,000, so I was wrong.”
Today it is apparent that those who mocked people with concerns about immigration in early 2014 were wrong to do so in two respects. They employed a straw man because no one had expected mass immigration on day one. And, as it turns out, their opponents had a better grasp of the numbers than they did.