Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to act on the financial incentives that he believes attracts immigrants to Britain as data showed that nearly 300,000 people moved to the UK in the last year.
In a major blow to the Conservatives, who had promised to cut net migration to the tens of thousands, figures by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that 298,000 immigrants moved to Britain in the year to September 2014 – an increase of more than 40 percent on the previous 12 months.
The number is the highest since the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition took power in 2010.
Asked about figures, the Prime Minister said: “The biggest lesson I would learn is we need to act more rapidly on the financial draw to Britain. I think the tax credit system and benefit systems work to make Britain a massive draw. We needed to act on that faster. I have made very clear pledges about what will happen in the next Parliament.”
With many polls showing the Conservatives are neck-and-neck with the opposition Labour party ahead of the May 7 vote and immigration one of voters’ top concerns, the rise is awkward for Cameron who is under pressure from the rise in popularity of the UK Independence Party, which wants to strongly curb immigration.
“This government’s policy is fatally holed beneath the water line and is sinking fast ,” said UKIP migration spokesman Steven Woolfe, describing the numbers as “absolutely staggering.”
The Official of National Statistics said the rise in net migration was down to a dramatic increase in migrants from the European Union coming to the UK.
The number of EU citizens settling in Britain increased by 43,000 to 251,000 during the period.
The number of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria, whose restrictions on working in Britain were removed on Jan. 1 last year, was 37,000, up from 24,000 over the same period in 2013.
With British economic growth outpacing most of the EU it has become an increasingly appealing destination for those seeking work.
The ONS said that between October and December 2014 employment of EU nationals in Britain was 269,000 higher than a year earlier.