Nearly two million EU workers in Britain
A quarter of European Union workers in Britain have arrived here in the last four years, new figures have revealed as the total reached a new high of just under two million.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed 1.95 million people born in the 27 other EU member states were working here in the first quarter of this year.
It was an increase of almost half a million on 2011 figures, equivalent to the population of Liverpool.
When workers from outside the EU were included the total number of non-British workers reached 4.9 million.
The overall total included a record number of eastern European migrants working in this country.
The ONS said there were 1.13 million migrant workers from eastern Europe in the first three months of this year, compared with about 640,000 in 2010.
Critics said the figures showed that EU free movement rules were putting huge pressure on wages, the NHS and other public services, and called for new limits to be placed on numbers.
In total there are 10.8 per cent more EU workers in Britain than a year ago, or 190,000 extra migrants.
The ONS figures showed the surge in the last 12 months was mainly driven by renewed levels of migration from Poland and the other seven eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004.
Levels of immigration from the eight former Communist states, known as the “EUA8”, had dropped off during the recession but in the last 12 months 135,000 arrived from the countries to work in Britain.
It means the total number of EUA8 immigrant workers was 942,000, up nearly 17 per cent year-on-year.
Immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007 and are measured separately by the ONS, were at 186,000, a significant rise year-on-year but slightly below a peak seen in the third quarter of last year.
Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, of the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory, said: “It is the strong British economy that is driving this effect.
“The economy in Britain has improved but there is a big difference between here and most eastern European countries, which means there is a big incentive to migrate to this country.
“As long as the British economy remains strong relative to the rest of the EU we are going to see continued migration from other countries in the EU.
“It is unlikely to change in the short term.”
Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of MigrationWatch UK said: “Ten years after accession we still find very large numbers of workers arriving from eastern Europe, mainly to work in low paid jobs.
“This puts growing pressure on wages and housing.
“It simply cannot be allowed to continue.”