The number of migrants to the UK from the EU has risen by one million in the last five years, taking the total to almost two million, according to latest figures. Another 1.2 million people working in Britain are from outside the EU. The figures will present more problems for Prime Minister David Cameron as he attempts to convince eurosceptic Tories that the UK should stay in the EU.
At least 201,000 of the new arrivals come from Romania and Bulgaria, according to the figures. At least 47,000 of these arrived in the past year. Other nationalities with a large UK presence include Holland, Germany, France, Italy and Portugal. Overall there are some 28 million workers who were born in the UK and 3.2 million from overseas, meaning one in nine workers in the UK is now a foreign national.
The data, collected by the Department for Work and Pensions as a result of issuing national insurance numbers to immigrants, is being seized on by Eurosceptics as further evidence that Britain cannot control its borders if it stays in the bloc. Conservative MP Steve Baker of Conservatives for Britain said: "This in at all costs deal will do nothing to address public concern, which is bound to arise from these statistics."
Cameron goes to Brussels on 18 February in a final bid to win concessions on migrant benefits –among other issues – in the hope that he will then be able to announce a date for the historic referendum. However the prime minister has been warned he faces a tough task persuading other European countries to allow the UK to have its way, with poorer nations unhappy at the proposed benefits brake and France unhappy about City regulation.
Former prime minister Tony Blair threw his weight behind the pro-Europe camp, telling Italian newspaper La Repubblica that two million migrant workers was good for Britain. Blair also said the UK and Europe should integrate further in some areas, including energy and security, but that diversity in other areas was also important.