British population born overseas now 'almost certainly' beyond 8 million

Credit: PA Wire

Britain's foreign-born population has almost certainly passed eight million for the first time.

Official figures due to be released on Thursday are likely to show the landmark was reached last year, according to analysts at The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

The forecast comes with ministers already braced for confirmation that net migration into the UK is at an all time high.

Previous data showed that in 2013 there were 7.9 million people living in the UK who were born overseas.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the observatory, said: "Given that we know net migration has been running in the hundreds of thousands since 2013, it would be surprising if the foreign-born population didn't go above eight million.

"The numbers have gone up steadily over time."

Immigration figures will also be published alongside the population data.

They could show the key measure of net migration - the difference between the number of people entering minus the number leaving - has reached a record level.

It will mean the Government's record on the issue and the Tories' aim to bring the figure under 100,000 come under intense scrutiny again

Previous statistics showed that 2.7m of the foreign-born population were born in EU countries, while 5.2m were from nations outside the bloc.

The total of 7.9 million indicated that one in eight people living in the UK was born abroad and was a jump of 50.7% compared to nine years earlier.

However, the rate of increase in the foreign-born population has slowed in recent years - rising by 5.9% in 2011, 2.1% in 2012 and 1.3% in 2013.

Ms Sumption said that since 2004, EU migration has increased by more than non EU migration in percentage terms.

"Traditionally most immigration to the UK has been of non-EU citizens," she said.

"It remains the case that non-EU citizens make up a substantial share of the total, but recently the share of EU migration has approached about half of all non British migration, which is unusual by recent historical standards."

Expansion of the EU and the relatively fast recovery of Britain's economy are seen as key factors in the trend.

"In the last few years we have had a situation where the UK economy recovered a bit faster than in the other EU countries," said Ms Sumption.

Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch UK said the Government now needed to "get a grip" on the immigration on non-EU students into the country.

"They must also renegotiate access to Britain by EU migrants, particularly those coming for low wage employment," he added.

Today, the Government announced fresh details of its new Immigration Bill, which is due to be introduced in the autumn and which will punish illegal immigrants and those employing them.