Farage fumes as net migration increases

Nigel Farage was the first in the queue to lambast the coalition this morning, after it emerged the number of people coming to live in Britain for good has increased for the first time in two years.

Earlier this week the prime minister's spokesman defended the coalition's ruthless approach to cutting benefits for immigrants by pointing out its existing measures had already cut net migration by a third since 2010.

Now figures from the Office for National Statistics have confirmed there were 182,000 long-term arrivals in the UK in the 12 months up to June 2013, compared to 167,000 in the year before.

"The fact that we still have net migration going up, EU migration going up and immigration into the UK still running at over half a million people per year is a damning indictment of this government's failed approach to immigration," Ukip leader Nigel Farage commented.

"This is before they plan to open the doors to Bulgaria and Romania next year. If the government were serious about bringing immigration into the UK under control, they would not allow total unrestricted access from Bulgaria and Romania from January 1st next year."

The rise has been dismissed as statistically insignificant by the ONS and immigration minister Mark Harper has responded by insisting the coalition's reforms are working.

But the statistics are bad news for the government because they make it much harder to reduce net migration to under 100,000 by 2015.

Dr Scott Blinder, acting director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, said the government faced a "significant hurdle" in achieving its 'tens-of-thousands' target by the end of this parliament.

The Home Office has claimed Britain's recovering economy, which is performing better than those in eastern Europe, is behind the trend.

But the Migration Observatory suggested the lowest levels of emigration from the UK since 2001 were a big part of the picture.

"As concern about new migration flows from Romania and Bulgaria continue to dominate the public debate, the government's continued focus on reducing net migration risks obscuring more important questions about how it can encourage the type of skilled immigration that the UK needs," Alex Glennie of the IPPR think-tank said.

"The government needs to commit to increasing the numbers of international students."

Immigration from Europe is an increasing factor. The overall number of immigrants actually fell from 517,000 in the year ending in June 2012 to 503,000 in the following 12 months. But in Europe EU immigration rose by 25,000.

Much of the reduction in net migration has hit overseas students, despite the UK's education exports industry being valued at £17.5 billion and the Department for Business hoping to increase the number of international students by 20% over the next five years.