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New EU migration figures add fuel to Brexit row

The “Vote Leave” camp pounced on new figures released on Thursday showing increasing migration from Romania and Bulgaria, and claimed Prime Minister David Cameron’s EU deal would do nothing to reduce migration into Britain.

world Updated: Feb 25, 2016 19:58 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
New EU migration figures

The Office for National Statistics revealed net migration – the difference between those moving in to Britain and those leaving – was 323,000 in the year ending September 2015, again belying British Prime Minister David Cameron’s aim of bringing it down to ‘tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands’.(Reuters Photo)

The “Vote Leave” camp pounced on new figures released on Thursday showing increasing migration from Romania and Bulgaria, and claimed Prime Minister David Cameron’s EU deal would do nothing to reduce migration into Britain.

In many respects, migration from within the European Union is at the heart of Britain’s uneasiness in recent years over its membership of the 28-nation bloc. A referendum on its membership is scheduled for June 23.

The Office for National Statistics revealed net migration – the difference between those moving in to Britain and those leaving – was 323,000 in the year ending September 2015, again belying Cameron’s aim of bringing it down to “tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands”.

Iain Duncan-Smith, one of the high-profile cabinet ministers in the Brexit camp, said Cameron was campaigning to keep Britain in the EU on the basis of a deal that will do nothing to reduce net migration to the UK, and may actually lead to a sharp increase in arrivals as people try to beat the “emergency welfare brake” mentioned in the deal.

He said in an interview to The Guardian that he had warned Cameron in private a failure to control immigration would only encourage the equivalent of the French National Front. Concern over migration has increasingly shifted to that from within the EU instead of from India and other non-EU countries.

“If you do not control your borders my observation is that you get parties led by people like Marine Le Pen and others who feed off the back of this, and ordinary decent people feel life is out of control,” he said.

There were reports Cameron would sack justice secretary Michael Gove – another cabinet minister in the Brexit camp – after the referendum for claiming the EU deal was not legally binding. 10 Downing Street has refuted the claim.

Meanwhile, the cabinet secretary has limited access to official documents until the referendum to the six ministers who have joined the Brexit camp, including the minister of state for employment Priti Patel.