Politicians underestimated scale of immigration

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 does not count as a “statistically 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 on January 1st 2014, with some anticipating mass immigration from those countries over subsequent years.

In the run-up to the 2014 European Elections, Nigel Farage suggested that some 50,000 Romanians and Bulgarians could arrive in Britain per year. The prediction received widespread criticism. 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, with its booming economy, international language, and openness, Britain was bound to draw large numbers. Conversely, Spain and Italy were in crisis, with significant youth unemployment and a growing number of people emigrating to Britain.

Farage underestimated 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 apologise 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.”

Those who mocked people with concerns over immigration in early 2014 were wrong to do so. As it turns out, those whom they mocked had a better grasp of the numbers in question than they did.