UK border
UK borderGetty Images

Net migration to the UK has remained three times higher than the government's "tens of thousands" target, official data revealed on Thursday (1 December).

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the total hit 335,000 in the year to June, including a record high of 189,000 EU citizens. The record total net migration high was 336,000 in year to June 2015.

The research body also said a record 650,000 migrants entered the UK over the year, including a new high of 284,000 EU citizens, up from 265,000 in the previous year.

The data covers the year prior to the EU referendum, a campaign in which immigration featured heavily as an issue. Vote Leave, the official Brexit campaign, endorsed an Australian-style visa system.

But Prime Minister Theresa May rejected such a programme, while her Home Secretary Amber Rudd recommitted the government to David Cameron's controversial "tens of thousands" net migration target.

Immigration is expected to be a significant factor in the UK's Brexit negotiations with the EU. European Council President Donald Tusk has ruled out "single market a la carte" – access to the EU's single-market coupled with migration curbs – ahead of the talks.

May told MPs on Wednesday that she hoped to assure EU nationals in the UK and British citizens on the continent of their residency rights "early" in the negotiations. "Of course, there will be two years of negotiations... I think it is right that we give reassurance to British citizens living in the EU and to EU citizens living here in the UK," she said.

"But I think the reaction that we've seen shows why it was absolutely right for us not to do what the Labour Party wanted us to do, which was simply to give away the guarantee for rights of EU citizens here in the UK because, as we have seen, that would leave UK citizens in Europe high and dry."

The comments came after Tusk rejected an early deal between the parties on the issue, stressing that the EU would not begin negotiations before May triggered Article 50, the official mechanism to break from Brussels.

More than three million EU nationals live in the UK, while more than 1.2 million Britons reside in the other 27 EU nations.

ONS infographic
UK immigration vs emigration in the year to June 2016ONS