EU immigration: 27% surge hands Ukip election day bonus

Latest figures make nonsense of Cameron's pledge to reduce net immigration to under 100,000 a year

Column LAST UPDATED AT 13:03 ON Thu 22 May 2014

Nigel Farage's Ukip received an election day bonus this morning with the revelation that the number of EU citizens migrating to Britain last year rose to 201,000 – up 27 per cent on 2012.

Ukip, of course, argues that Britain has no control over this number unless it leaves the EU.

As for David Cameron's pledge to cut annual net migration to less than 100,000 by next year – well, that looks increasingly implausible. The net immigration figure for 2013 – that's the total number of immigrants from the EU and elsewhere, minus the number of Britons leaving to live abroad – was 212,000, up from 177,000 in 2012.

Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said today: "David Cameron and Theresa May's flagship immigration pledge is in shreds. They promised ‘no ifs, no buts’ to get their net migration target down to the tens of thousands by the end of the parliament, and the actual figure is over twice that."

The new figures, from the Office of National Statistics, were released on the day Britons (well, those who can be bothered) go to the polls to vote for their MEP. 

The ONS said the rise in EU immigrants was statistically significant but that the net immigration figure was not statistically significant.

Also offering ammunition to Ukip on polling day is the rising number of Romanians and Bulgarians applying for work in Britain.

There were 65,000 national insurance numbers issued to Romanians and Bulgarians in the year ending 31 March – and, according to the number-crunchers at MigrationWatch, 45,000 of those were issued since 1 January when EU restrictions were lifted. MigrationWatch tweeted: "Unprecedented. Four times the number issued in any previous quarter.

A national insurance number is necessary for a salaried job and to claim benefits. Polish citizens continue to be be the biggest group seeking NI numbers.

The ONS figures were released in the wake of an election day YouGov poll showing Ukip (on 27 per cent) nudging into a one-point lead over Labour (26 per cent) and five points clear of the Conservatives at (22 per cent).

The Mail's Opinium survey has still better news for Ukip, putting them on 32 per cent to Labour's 25 per cent, with the Conservatives on 22 per cent.  

As for the Liberals, they are adrift in both polls – getting nine per cent from YouGov and a mere six per cent from Opinium. Little wonder there's an internal party memo doing the rounds – and leaked to The Guardian – advising Lib Dem spokesmen how to handle questions if the party wins zero seats in the EU Parliament when the results come in on Sunday night. 

The document advises them to say they are "disappointed with the result but the party remains resolute and this was expected at this point in the electoral cycle".

So, Farage looks set to dominate the headlines on Monday morning – and Peter Oborne argues in The Spectator that he fully deserves it. The Ukip leader has turned British politics upside down and ended "a cross-party conspiracy" where talk of immigration and EU membership were verboten.

“Single-handedly he [Farage] has brought these otherwise moribund elections to life," writes Oborne. "Single-handedly he has restored passion, genuine debate and meaning to politics. Single-handedly he has reinvented British democracy.”

Whether Ukip can score equally well in the local council elections, also taking place today, is less clear. Readers prepared to stay up late tonight and watch the results come in (both the BBC and Sky are covering them live) should watch for the Croydon result, expected at about 2 am.

If Ukip can perform well there, despite the fiasco of the party's candidate saying that the town was a "dump", then anything is possible.  ·