EU immigration to UK hits record level

Officials say it was too early to tell if Brexit had had a significant impact on the level of immigration

EU immigration to UK hits record level

File photo of EU and UK flags | Image: Stefan Rousseau PA Wire/PA Images

The number of EU citizens migrating to the UK has hit a new high, with an estimated 284,000 people arriving in the year ending in June.

That is 19,000 more than the year before, according to the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures cover the period up to the EU referendum and just after.

Net migration, the difference between the total number arriving in the UK from all countries worldwide and those leaving, was 335,000.

That is just a thousand below last year's peak.

Romania was the country where most people arrived from, making up 10% of total immigration.

The figures starkly show how far Theresa May's government is from its target of getting net migration below 100,000.

The immigration total - those arriving from any country, inside or outside the EU - was also the highest ever, at an estimated 650,000 - up 11,000.

The figures come as British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reportedly privately told EU ambassadors that he supports freedom of movement - an opinion that appears to fly in the face of his government's hard line on controlling immigration.

Mr Johnson has denied the reports.

Nicola White, from the ONS, said it was too early to tell if Brexit had had a significant impact on EU arrivals as the figures only cover the period to the end of June.

She said net migration, while still near record levels, was "stable compared with recent years".

"There were also increases in the number of asylum seekers and refugees," added Ms White.

"Immigration of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens continues the upward trend seen over the last few years and in 2015 Romania was the most common country of previous residence."

Some 70,000 people arrived from the two countries - another new high.

Separate figures from the British Home Office show the number of European nationals and their family members getting a certificate for permanent UK residency doubled in a year.

Some 37,638 documents were issued in the year to September, with 14,500 in the three months after the referendum.

That is the highest quarterly figure recorded and triple the same period the year before.

EU citizens who have been in the UK for five years continuously get an automatic right to live in the country permanently.