In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Immigration Limitations


What types of immigration can be reduced, and at what cost? (Edited: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the public preference for reductions in immigration, there is a lack of credibility and coherence in how such reductions will be achieved. Heading into the 2015 General Election, the Conservatives wanting annual net migration into Britain to be “in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands” [1]. UKIP sought to limit “highly-skilled work visas to 50,000 per annum” [2].

According to the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, published by the Office for National Statistics in November 2015, total immigration was 636,000 from the year-end in June 2015 [3]. Emigration was 300,000 over the same period. Net long-term international migration was 336,000, which is up by 82,000 on the previous year. Net migration has not been lower than 140,000 per annum since 1998, the first full year of Tony Blair’s Labour government.

Reasons for coming

The ONS breaks down the headline figures into the main reason for immigration into Great Britain. UKIP said they would limit work visas to 50,000 per year. Immigration for work-related purposes is the most common reason to come to Britain: the provisional figure is 294,000 for the year-end June 2015.


Work-related migration and formal study remain the highest reasons for British immigration. (Source: ONS)

This means that the average of all data points in the ONS figures since the year-end of December 2009 is 212,000. UKIP’s policy would suggest a cut of work-related migration into Britain from this level by 76%. Furthermore, immigration from outside of the European Union has vastly outstripped immigration from within the European Union.


Non-EU immigration has been consistently higher than EU immigration. (Source: ONS)

The next largest category of migration is formal study, typically at university. The latest provisional estimate stands at 192,000 students in the year ending June 2015. Another 80,000 people came to join or accompany those already in Britain. There is a provisional figure of 24,000 for those who gave no specific responses or no responses at all. Another 46,000 came for “other reasons” in this time period.


To reach the Conservative target, presuming emigration of 342,000 people, the government would have to reduce inward migration below 442,000. The average immigration level since the year-end of December 2009 has been 565,000 people per year. This would mean an overall cut in immigration from this recent average of 21%. If student numbers were to remain at their recent average levels, but the overall target were maintained, then all other forms of immigration into Britain would need to decrease by 34%.

Even if Britain were to withdraw from the European Union, migration could not be plausibly reduced to levels desired by the Conservatives or UKIP without severe negative consequences for British families, universities and businesses. Those demanding an end to ‘open door’ or ‘mass’ immigration need to consider how this will be achieved.


[1] Conservatives, 2015. The Conservative Manifesto 2015. Available from: [Accessed: 12th February 2016]

[2] UKIP, 2015. UKIP Manifesto 2015. Available from: [Accessed: 12th February 2016]

[3] ONS, 2015. Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, November 2015. Available from: [Accessed: 12th February 2016]



This entry was posted on March 3, 2016 by in National Politics and tagged , , , .
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