EU migrants poured into Britain at the rate of one every 40 seconds last year, according to a bombshell report the Government tried to bury.
The extraordinary revelation that 800,000 EU citizens exploited free movement rules to move to the UK was dragged out of Whitehall following a six-month battle.
The number of incomers is more than the entire population of Tyneside.
Tory ministers campaigning to quit the EU said the migrants – many of them from Eastern Europe – were driving down wages and putting huge pressure on public services. They said even more would come in future as a result of the new national Living Wage.
David Cameron was attacked by his own MPs for trying to bury the Office for National Statistics report beneath a major announcement about the future of the BBC.
The MPs, including serving ministers, joined migration experts in arguing it was now clear the true level of mass immigration to Britain from the EU had been ‘undercounted’ for years.
Yet the Government still insisted that its statistics could be trusted. They said that, because not all of the 800,000 migrants stayed for a year or more, they should not all be counted in the official net migration figures.
The ONS said the 800,000 figure was ‘fair’ to use in relations to the number of arrivals last year, though some of the migrants would have left during the year.
Jonathan Portes, the ex-government adviser who fought a six-month battle for the release of the figures said he also believed the ONS was still undercounting – with a possible discrepancy of up to 260,000 over the last four years.
Yesterday’s analysis suggests there were 1,000,400 “long-term” migrants to the UK from the EU between June 2011 and June 2015, which means they stayed for more than a year.
But other figures for the same period show 2,234,000 National Insurance numbers were allocated to EU nationals – a gap of 1.2 million.
The ONS said much of this gap was accounted for by the fact many of those with NI numbers were working or claiming benefits for less than 12 months then going home, so need not be counted.
In doing so, the ONS published for the first time an analysis of the number of short and long term EU migrants combined.
The total number of arrivals from the European Union was 2.4 million from 2011 to 2015.
This was 1.5m higher than the figure for just long term migrants – which officials had previously focused upon.
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