In Brief

'Missing million' found as Brexit campaign turns on immigration

Short-term arrivals explain gap between NI numbers and number of EU migrants, says ONS

Britain's "missing million" has been found: the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says it can explain the gap between the number of immigrants arriving in the UK from the EU and the much higher number of national insurance numbers issued to them.

The discrepancy had been highlighted by leading Brexiters including Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. They argued that there must be one million more EU immigrants in the UK than official statistics recorded because so many more new national insurance numbers had been issued than could be accounted for.

Official figures showed that slightly fewer than one million immigrants arrived from the European Union in the five years to 2015. Over the same period, however, 2.2 million national insurance numbers were issued to EU migrants.

Yesterday, however, the ONS said the gap could be accounted for by short-term migrants who register for a national insurance number but remain in the UK for less than a year.

"National insurance number registrations are not a good indicator of long-term migration," Glen Watson, the deputy national statistician for population and public policy, said.

"This research shows that many people who register for national insurance stay in the UK for less than a year, which is the minimum stay for a long-term migrant according to the internationally recognised definition."

The new analysis has "conclusively shown that no such cover-up has taken place", says The Guardian, adding that the economist who uncovered the apparent gap, Jonathan Portes, had "welcomed" the ONS's explanation.

However, the official account is not good enough for the Daily Telegraph's Allison Pearson. She claims that every second "Piotr the plumber" who arrives for a short-term visit is likely to stay on long term. Then, "we will have lots of little Piotrs in need of schooling and healthcare".

The Government has underestimated, obfuscated and "lied", she says, giving the Brexit movement its "biggest weapon".

The Guardian says Pearson is one of many Leave sympathisers, including Johnson, Priti Patel and John Redwood, now trying to move the debate around the "missing million" from long-term migrants to those here short-term.

However, it continues, the ONS figures for short-term migrants are published every year, rather than hidden or covered up.

Former Conservative immigration minister Damian Green points out that these short-term migrants include "27,000 teachers, 28,000 care workers and 60,000 seasonal workers in the farming industry who do tremendous things for this country, both in our public services and in the private sector".

The ONS has "bust the myth that these national insurance numbers expose something about the immigration system", he added.

Giving a speech today in favour of remaining in the EU, former prime minister Sir John Major will accuse the Leave campaign of "morphing into Ukip" as it shifts its argument for Brexit to an anti-immigration stance.

"This is their trump card. I urge them to take care. This is dangerous territory that, if handled carelessly, can open up long-term divisions in our society," he will say.

Recommended

What are the phosphorus bombs ‘pummelling’ Ukraine?
White phosphorus being dropped by the Assad regime in Douma, Syria
Fact file

What are the phosphorus bombs ‘pummelling’ Ukraine?

How the UK’s cost-of-living crisis compares with the rest of the world
Cost-of-living crisis protester
Business Briefing

How the UK’s cost-of-living crisis compares with the rest of the world

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
In Depth

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?

The dangerous dogs banned in the UK
Dogo Argentino
Why we’re talking about . . .

The dangerous dogs banned in the UK

Popular articles

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?
Vladimir Putin
Why we’re talking about . . .

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths
Vladimir Putin has previously deployed ‘extreme measures’ to crush opposition
Why we’re talking about . . .

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths

Nato vs. Russia: who would win?
Nato troops
In Depth

Nato vs. Russia: who would win?

The Week Footer Banner