Suella Braverman has joined Tory MPs in piling pressure on Rishi Sunak over net migration, after figures showed it hit a new record of 745,000.
The Prime Minister is facing calls to bring down net migration urgently, with the former home secretary among those warning that current levels are “unsustainable”.
Revised estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) put net migration to the UK in the year to December 2022 higher than previously thought. However, the figure for the year to June 2023 is estimated to be lower, at 672,000.
The former home secretary said that while in Government she had pushed for a number of measures, including an annual cap on net migration, the closure of the graduate visa route and a cap on health and social care visas.
“Today’s record migration stats show we’ve let in an extra million people in just two years, a population equivalent to Birmingham. The pressure on housing, the NHS, schools, wages, and community cohesion, is unsustainable. When do we say: enough is enough?” she said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
“We were elected on a pledge to reduce net migration, which was 229k in 2019. Today’s record numbers are a slap in the face to the British public who have voted to control and reduce migration at every opportunity. We must act now to reduce migration to sustainable levels.
“Brexit gave us the tools. It’s time to use them.”
The 2019 Conservative Party manifesto pledged to bring overall net migration numbers down after the introduction of post-Brexit border controls. Many MPs on the right of the party have called on Mr Sunak to honour that commitment.
The right-wing New Conservative group of MPs – led by Miriam Cates, Danny Kruger and Sir John Hayes – was among those demanding action from the Prime Minister and his Home Secretary James Cleverly.
The group said: “The word ‘existential’ has been used a lot in recent days but this really is ‘do or die’ for our party.
“Each of us made a promise to the electorate. We don’t believe that such promises can be ignored.
“The Government must propose, today, a comprehensive package of measures to meet the manifesto promise by the time of the next election.”
Former Cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, said the figures pointed to a serious political failure in controlling post-Brexit borders.
“I’m embarrassed that we haven’t achieved what we set out to achieve,” he said.
Tory MP Sir Simon Clarke said the level was “unsustainable both economically and socially”, adding that there is “no public mandate” for it.
Former minister Neil O’Brien called the numbers “extraordinary” and said that Mr Sunak “must now take immediate and massive action”.
Tory MP Jonathan Gullis said the figures were “completely unacceptable” and will “rightly anger” the British people, as he called for drastic action to bring down legal migration.
The ONS said it is too early to tell if this is the start of a new downward trend but that the most recent estimates indicate a slowing of immigration coupled with increasing emigration.
Mr Cleverly said the latest figure “is largely in line with our own immigration statistics” and insisted the Government “remains completely committed to reducing levels of legal migration”.
The previous estimate for the year to December 2022 had been 606,000, but the ONS has since revised this upwards in light of “unexpected patterns” in the behaviour of migrants.
The latest figures show that a total of 1.18 million people are estimated to have arrived in the UK in the year to June 2023 while 508,000 are likely to have left, leaving the net migration figure at 672,000.
Most people arriving in the UK in the year ending June 2023 were non-EU nationals (968,000), followed by EU (129,000) and British (84,000), the ONS said.
Study remained the biggest contributor to non-EU immigration in that period, accounting for 39%, largely unchanged compared with the previous period.
The next biggest contributor to non-EU immigration was migrants coming for work – having risen to 33%, from 23% in the year ending June 2022, and largely attributed to people on health and care visas.
Migration was fairly stable before the #COVID19 pandemic but patterns and behaviours have been shifting considerably.
More people are arriving from non-EU countries, before migration was driven by people from EU countries.
Scroll through to see how things have changed 👉
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) November 23, 2023
Arrivals of people via humanitarian routes have fallen from 19% to 9% over the same period, the ONS said, with most of these made up of Ukrainians and British Nationals (Overseas) arrivals from Hong Kong.
Labour said the figures were a sign of the Government’s “failure” on immigration.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “These figures are driven by a 54% increase in work visas and a 156% increase in health and social care visas which prove the Conservatives’ abysmal record on skills, training and workforce planning, as they have run our economy into the ground.
“They are still failing to make changes Labour has called for to end the 20% wage discount in the immigration system and to link it to training requirements.”