Net migration hit 330,000 in the 12 months ending March 2015, 94,000 more than the previous year - and the highest on record, official figures show.
The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this morning, said net migration of EU citizens shot up 40 per cent to 183,000. A record 269,000 EU citizens opted to move to the UK last year. It was driven by an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians – 53,000 moved to the UK over the period, twice as many as the year before.
The ONS said 61 per cent of EU citizens moving to the UK had a definite job to go to.
“The government mustn’t use this record figure as another excuse to limit the sort of positive immigration that grows our economy,” said Mark Hilton, director of immigration at London First.
“Our world-beating industries need access to talent and skills from around the world in order to remain global leaders. But they are struggling to bring in the talent we lack because they’re hitting government limits for skilled workers.
“We need to make strategic decisions on immigration, not knee-jerk ones that fail to take account of the needs of the economy.”
Madeleine Sumption, director of the migration observatory at the University of Oxford, said: “Migration levels are currently comparable to what we saw in the mid-2000s after EU enlargement.
"What this means for the UK is subjective. There is no objective way to decide what the ‘right’ number of migrants is, and reasonable people will disagree. What is clear is that reducing net migration to below 100,000 remains a distant prospect, at least under current economic conditions and policies."
“The UK remains a major destination for international migrants, in part due to its flexible labour market and attractive higher education sector. But it is by no means an outlier by international standards. People born abroad make up a similar share of the population in other EU countries like Germany, Spain and Sweden.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to cut net migration levels to below 100,000.