'It's do or die' Right-wing Tories warn Rishi Sunak to act on immigration now or lose the next election after net migration hits 672,000

Rishi Sunak is facing calls from Tory MPs to “act now” to bring down net migration, as new figures showed that it hit a new record of 745,000.

Revised estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) put net migration to the UK in the year to December 2022 higher than previously thought. However, the figure for the year to June 2023 is estimated to be lower, at 672,000.

In a strongly-worded statement, the right-wing New Conservative group of MPs demanded action from the Prime Minister and his Home Secretary James Cleverly.

The group, led by Miriam Cates, Danny Kruger and Sir John Hayes, warned: “The word ‘existential’ has been used a lot in recent days but this really is ‘do or die’ for our party.

“Each of us made a promise to the electorate. We don’t believe that such promises can be ignored.

“The Government must propose, today, a comprehensive package of measures to meet the manifesto promise by the time of the next election. We will assess any such package and report publicly on whether it will meet the promise made to the electorate.

“The Prime Minister, Chancellor, and new Home Secretary must show that they stand by the promises on which we were elected to Parliament. We must act now.”

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was “embarrassed” about the “absolutely extraordinary” net migration figure.

A migrants lights a fire to keep warm at a camp in Calais on the day 27 died attempting to cross the Channel 

Migrants are helped ashore from a lifeboat at a beach in Dungeness

“This is a phenomenally high level with economic consequences,” the Conservative former cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, adding that excess immigration was to blame for forecasts of shrinking GDP per capita.

He agreed that the figure pointed to a serious political failure in controlling post-Brexit borders.

“I’m embarrassed that we haven’t achieved what we set out to achieve,” Sir Jacob said.

He also said the small boats issue “is a distraction” in terms of numbers.

The ONS said it is too early to tell if this is the start of a new downward trend but that the most recent estimates indicate a slowing of immigration coupled with increasing emigration.

Mr Cleverly said the latest figure “is largely in line with our own immigration statistics” and insisted the Government “remains completely committed to reducing levels of legal migration”.

The previous estimate for the year to December 2022 had been 606,000, but the ONS has since revised this upwards in light of “unexpected patterns” in the behaviour of migrants.

The latest figures show that a total of 1.18 million people are estimated to have arrived in the UK in the year to June 2023 while 508,000 are likely to have left, leaving the net migration figure at 672,000.

Mr Cleverly said: “This figure is not showing a significant increase from last year’s figures and is largely in line with our own immigration statistics.

“The Government remains completely committed to reducing levels of legal migration while at the same time focusing relentlessly on our priority of stopping the boats.”

The latest figures show that a total of 1.18 million people are estimated to have arrived in the UK in the year to June 2023

Most people arriving to the UK in the year ending June 2023 were non-EU nationals (968,000), followed by EU (129,000) and British (84,000), the ONS said.

He said the UK needs to “reduce our overall numbers by eliminating the abuse and exploitation of our visa system by both companies and individuals”.

Emma Rourke, ONS deputy national statistician, said: “Our most recent migration statistics are always provisional and supported by assumptions around whether we think people will stay 12 months or more.

“We are responding to changes in a highly volatile world and our revisions reflect the unexpected patterns arising from that unpredictability. This will continue to influence our measures of uncertainty.”

Most people arriving to the UK in the year ending June 2023 were non-EU nationals (968,000), followed by EU (129,000) and British (84,000), the ONS said.

Study remained the biggest contributor to non-EU immigration in that period, accounting for 39%, largely unchanged compared with the previous period.

The next biggest contributor to non-EU immigration was migrants coming for work – having risen to 33%, from 23% in the year ending June 2022, and largely attributed to people on health and care visas.

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