When broken down by country, by far the largest group of adult migrants came from Poland during the twelve months to June 2014. Over 91,000 Polish nationals registered new national insurance numbers in the UK during that time, which constitutes almost a sixth of the total 560,000 migrants.
Prime Minister David Cameron intends to limit the number of EU migrants arriving in the UK by capping national insurance numbers for low-skilled workers, according to The Sunday Times.
In order to prevent EU workers from coming to Britain and claiming tax benefits indefinitely, each new arrival would be given a national insurance number for a limited time only.
But the plan would not go down well with many EU officials, who have already warned that such restriction would not be accepted by the rest of the bloc. Today, outgoing European Commission President Manuel Barroso told the BBC that free movement within the EU was an “essential” principle and could not be changed.
He said Cameron’s idea did not appear to be “in conformity with European laws”, and that it was only a “matter of fairness” that EU citizens should be able to live in the UK when considering that 1.4m Britons live elsewhere in the EU.
“For us it is important, the principle of non-discrimination . . . In principle immigration caps seem in contradiction with European laws, that is quite clear in my view.”
Some officials also believe that rather than deterring would-be migrants, imposing limits would steer them towards the black market.
Net migration from Europe is rising
According to cabinet sources, the latest plan will constitute a large part of Cameron 's immigration policy speech later this year, in which he is expected to present a tougher stance on migrant workers coming into the UK.
Cameron has failed to fulfil his 2010 election promise of reducing annual immigration to below 100,000, and data has shown that recent increases in net migration to the UK have been driven by a rise in citizens arriving from the rest of the EU.
Statistics released in August by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that during the twelve months to March 2014, 131,000 EU citizens moved to the UK, compared with 95,000 during the previous year. This means EU citizens made up almost half of all migrants to the UK in 2014, with only a slightly higher number of non-EU citizens coming in.
The growing threat from Ukip
The Conservative Party is facing increasing competition from the UK Independence Party (Ukip), whose strong anti-immigration stance has proved popular with many voters. Earlier this month, the party won its first by-election when Douglas Carswell became MP for Clacton. Carswell had recently defected to Ukip from the Conservative Party.
If the Conservatives are elected at the next general election, Cameron has promised to hold an EU membership referendum by 2017.