Dispute over number of EU migrants in UK

New figures are based on national insurance numbers issued to foreign nationals

Culture secretary John Whittingdale: he said official figures suggest 257,000 EU migrants came to Britain last year, but over the same period 630,000 national insurance numbers were issued to EU citizens. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Culture secretary John Whittingdale: he said official figures suggest 257,000 EU migrants came to Britain last year, but over the same period 630,000 national insurance numbers were issued to EU citizens. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

 

The British government is to publish new figures which could reveal a higher number of EU migrants are working in the UK than suggested by official figures.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said it would provide statistics on how many national insurance numbers were actively being used by EU citizens. The figures will be given to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to publish in May, just weeks ahead of the EU referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union.

Discrepancies

Head of the watchdog Ed Humpherson said figures for national insurance numbers issued to foreign nationals were traditionally higher than the ONS’s international migration estimates.

Migration has been one of the most divisive issues of the EU referendum campaign and the figures are likely to be seized upon by Leave campaigners if they prove to be higher than current official statistics.

Last month, Brexit-backing culture secretary John Whittingdale challenged prime minister David Cameron to release the HMRC figures, which he claimed would show immigration from the EU was twice as high as suggested.

Official figures suggest 257,000 EU migrants came to Britain last year, but over the same period 630,000 national insurance numbers were issued to EU citizens, he said. – (PA)