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No “missing million” EU migrants, rules ONS

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 12.05.2016

The Leave camp has made much of perceived shortcomings in Britain’s official migration data. The number of EU nationals registering for National Insurance Numbers has consistently outstripped official estimates of migration, with the difference described as a “missing million” by the Telegraph

Nigel Farage accused the government of “pulling the wool over our eyes”, arguing that National Insurance registrations were “a simple and clear reflection of the real numbers”. Boris Johnson said there was “no question” that the official figures were “misleading”, adding that “politicians have been driven into this terrible dishonesty… by the EU’s arrangements”.

The Office for National Statistics has now released an analysis of the differences between National Insurance numbers and the official estimates of long-term migration derived from the International Passenger Survey (IPS).  Far from the “bombshell report” anticipated by the Express, the report is a damp squib.

The central conclusion is that the “IPS continues to be the best source of information for measuring long-term international migration”. Meanwhile, short-term migration “largely accounts” for why more National Insurance numbers have been given out. In other words, many EU citizens come to Britain to work for short periods and get National Insurance numbers, but don’t count in the long-term data because they don’t intend to stay for at least a year.

In the year to end-June 2014, long-term migration by EU citizens was 223,000 while short-term migration was another 251,000 – giving a total of 474,000. In the same period, 421,000 National Insurance numbers were given to EU citizens.

And speaking of National Insurance numbers, Treasury statistics also published today showed the economic benefit of EU migration. They revealed that, in the 2013/14 tax year, recently arrived EU nationals paid £3.11 billion in income tax and National Insurance contributions, while drawing just £560 million in tax credits and child benefits.

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    But Vote Leave continues to mislead the public. In an email to supporters, the official Leave campaign said “in the four years up to June 2014, statistics had originally showed that 739,000 EU migrants had come to the UK.  However, the new figures – which take into account National Insurance number registrations – reveal the figure to be 1.537 million“.

    This is untrue. The 1.537 million figure refers to National Insurance registrations, which the ONS says “are not a good measure” of long-term migration.

    There is no cover up. Vote Leave suggested that the government and ITV announced a debate between Farage and David Cameron to “distract attention from the immigration figures being released today”. Given the report’s findings, perhaps Vote Leave were the ones looking to distract attention.

    Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Vote Leave said “We know you are part of the remain campaign, please stop calling. We’d appreciate it if you’d stop calling. You don’t need to call us because we aren’t going to respond.”

    This piece has been updated to take account of Vote Leave’s email to its supporters, as well as newly released Treasury statistics.

    Edited by Hugo Dixon

    2 Responses to “No “missing million” EU migrants, rules ONS”

    • I can tell you this from my family experience: my brother and I are both Consultant doctors. I am still in the NHS, my brother left the UK 3 years ago with his wife and child to go back t work in italy. All 3 of us have NI numbers issued (as well as the Italian equivalent of the fiscal code number), however all 3 of us never claimed any benefits in and from UK. Therefore already from this little group of EU immigrants there are 3 NI numbers issued but 2 totally inactive and 1 (mine) active but just for tax payments purposes.

    • Mario, I think it was just them trying to cloud peoples judgment again and jump on that fear many unfortunately have.

      I see more immigrants working than not working, which is a good thing.