Britain can expect to see annual migration of over a quarter of a million for the next twenty years – roughly the present population of Southampton every year

June 13, 2016

If the UK remains in the EU, net migration will continue to be very high, at over a quarter of a million a year for at least 20 years, with a massive impact on our population. That is the conclusion of a report released today by Migration Watch UK.

A central, but cautious estimate, for total net migration suggests that it could run at 265,000 in 2035. 60% of the net foreign inflow would come from the EU.

The paper looks ahead over a twenty year period in the event that the UK votes to remain in the EU in the referendum on 23rd June. It points to continued very high levels of net migration. It notes that there is widespread complacency and denial about both the likelihood and the impact of rapid population growth.

Under the low migration scenario, net migration from the EU falls to 135,000 by the end of the period and only a small number of refugees who have already arrived in other parts of the EU relocate to Britain. The government successfully reduces non-EU net migration to 100,000 a year. British emigration remains at 50,000 a year, giving total net migration under this scenario of 205,000 (see Annex A).

Under the high scenario, net migration from the EU rises to 220,000 by 2031. In this scenario, attempts to reduce non-EU migration have failed so it is running at 150,000 per year. British emigration (50,000 net per year) brings total net migration to the UK to 320,000 in 20 years time (see Annex B).

The central estimate represents a cautious approach. It excludes Turkey altogether and takes the average of the high and low migration scenarios. This would see net migration running at 265,000 by 2035 (See Annex D). Net migration at this level is the current ‘high migration’ scenario used by the ONS in the population projections and would take the UK population to 70 million in 2024 and 80 million within thirty years (see Annex E).

Population growth on such a scale would generate serious competition for scarce resources, overcrowding of roads and transport systems, loss of amenity and green fields and a housing crisis far more serious than anything we experience today, not to speak of the challenge of integration.

In all of these scenarios, it is assumed that Turkey does not join the European Union, although this is clearly a major risk. If Turkey were to join the EU in 2024, net migration could be as high as 420,000 a year by 2035, with potentially 100,000 Turks arriving each year after transitional controls ended, say, in 2031 (see Annex C). Under these circumstances the UK population would rise to over 76 million in 2035 and 80 million in 2039.

Looking still further ahead it is hard to see how these numbers might come down until the level of East European economies becomes much closer to our own and until the problems that the Eurozone is now facing are overcome. Alternatively a serious economic downturn in the UK would reduce the attraction of our labour market.

Commenting, Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK said:

This report is a final wake up call. Even leaving aside the prospect of Turkey joining the EU, it shows that net migration could still be running at 265,000 a year in 20 years time. This would bring our population to 80 million within 30 years. If we remain in the EU there will be nothing to stop a continuing rapid increase in our population. This would change our country for ever against the express wishes of a very large majority of our fellow citizens.

Notes to Editors

Migration Watch UK has a long track record in successfully estimating net migration to the UK.

  1. In 2002, we estimated that non-EU net migration would run at 2 million per decade, including a small allowance for illegal immigration. We were correct. The ONS later estimated that legal non-EU migration in the period 2002-2011 was 2.1 million (see our 2002 paper MW97).
  2. In 2003, we described as 'almost worthless' estimates relied on by the Home Office of 5,000-13,000 EU8 immigrants per year. In the decade after Accession, EU8 net migration averaged 72,000 a year (including an undercount identified by the 2011 Census) - see our 2003 paper MW33.
  3. In 2013, we estimated that immigration from Romania and Bulgaria would add 50,000 a year to UK population. Average net migration from those two countries over the three-year period 2014-16 stood at 52,000 a year (see our 2013 paper MW287).

To read the full paper, click here

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