Britain's population could overtake France's, making it the second most populous country amongst European Union states within a decade, according to recent figures by Eurostat, the EU's official statistics agency. The UK population's rose by 8.8 per 1,000 in 2015/16 to reach 65.3 million, while France's population rose by only 3.7 per 1,000 to reach 66.6m, numbers in their latest report show.
The UK population grew at more than twice the rate of France's last year, though at a lower level than in Germany, which accepted hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, latest figures show. While the population of France grew 3.5% per 1,000 residents reaching 66.6 million, Britain's population had increased 8.8% reaching a record 65.3 million people.
"Britain has the sixth-fastest growth rate for population size. Growing at over twice the EU average, its population is projected to exceed France, a country with more than twice the land area, within five years," reads the Population Matters website.
Germany, however, remains the most populous country in Europe, growing 11.8% to 82 million, having accepted hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers this past year.
Chief executive of Population Matters, Simon Ross, said that if trends continue as they are, the UK will surpass the population of France within a decade.
"The population growth we are facing adds to the pressure on housing, transport and other public services. The government needs to get a grip and devise policies that will slow and stabilise the population of the UK," he told the Times.
Net migration to the UK – the difference between the number of people immigrating to the UK, and the number emigrating – currently runs at 330,000 people per year. But the population growth is boosted because many of the migrants are ages when they might start families. Irish Republic, France and UK had among the highest birth rates per 1,000 residents. The rate in Ireland was 14.2, in the UK 11.9 and in France 12.
Reducing immigration was one of the main topics during the campaign before the UK's referendum on EU membership last month, but the politicians who campaigned for Brexit, who claimed leaving the EU would allow the UK to impose controls over immigration, have been told by EU chiefs that Britain cannot remain in the European single market unless it accepts freedom of movement of its citizens.
A dying superstate?
Eurostat highlighted that in light of the growth seen in areas, that the overall population of the EU would have shrunk had it not been for the influx of migrants, as it has recorded more deaths than births for the first time in its 59-year history.
"In 2015, 5.1 million births occurred in the EU, while 5.2 million people died. This means that the EU has seen for the first time a negative natural change of the population," Eurostat said in a statement.
The data showed that 11 EU states suffered a decline in population, with the largest changes seen in Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Greece. The populations of 17 other countries increased, the largest rises seen in Austria and Luxembourg.
Migration helped to increase the overall population as hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived in the EU from the Middle East and north Africa.