EU immigration before Brexit was 76% higher than authorities said

New bombshell statistics from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the government grossly underestimated the level of immigration from the European Union between the year ending March 2012 and the year ending March 2020, as European migrants took advantage of mad EU free movement rules to flood into the United Kingdom.

The data is based on a new research methodology employed by the bureau, which now looks at tax and benefits records instead of just focusing on a flawed International Passenger Survey.

Their findings reveal that EU immigration averaged 216,000 a year over the period, 93,000 – or 76% – more than authorities previously admitted.

The data also revealed that the government had been overestimating the number of people coming to the country from outside the EU, although not to the same extent as they’d be underestimating EU numbers.

All told, immigration was 15% higher than reported on average, with EU migrants making up 64% – not just 42% – of the annual inflow.


Responding to the new figures the director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, Madeleine Sumption, said: “This report should really boost our confidence that UK migration statistics are getting more accurate and more useful for informing the public debate. After all, data like these can have a real impact on how people think about policy.

“After 2010, for example, tight restrictions on non-EU migrants were significantly based on the premise that most net migration was from outside of the EU. Today’s figures suggest that the real picture was quite different.”

She also commented on ONS findings for immigration during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, with ONS number crunchers suggesting there was a net outflow of 50,000 in Q2 of 2020.

“The pandemic dramatically disrupted migration patterns in the UK and there has been a lot of speculation about a mass exodus of migrants from the UK. There’s now a fair amount of evidence to suggest that emigration was lower than early data suggested. But what we saw in 2020 was still pretty extraordinary – after years of substantial net migration from EU countries to the UK, the trend appears to have gone into reverse.”

But confidence in their figures cannot be absolute. This site reported in February that the Migration Observatory had warned abound the state of disarray in data gathering during the pandemic, saying that the “ONS switched to a socially distanced method of recruiting people into statistical surveys, and this appears to have disproportionately affected migrants’ participation.”