Do you think legal immigration is 'too high'?

Record net migration figures have prompted a debate about whether there is too much immigration. What do you think?

Watch: Net migration to UK climbs to new record of 606,000

Net migration has reached a record high.

The net figure - the difference between the number of people moving to the UK and the number leaving - for 2022 was 606,000: up from 488,000 in 2021.

The numbers - which don't include, for example, English Channel small boat crossings - were driven by people from non-EU countries arriving for work, study and humanitarian reasons, Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates showed on Thursday.

The new figures have prompted a debate about whether there is too much immigration into the UK.

What do you think?

'Numbers are too high'

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 23: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during the London Defence Conference, at King's College on May 23, 2023 in London, England. The London Defence Conference is an annual, geopolitical, defence and security gathering held in partnership with the world-leading King's College London School of Security Studies, drawing together policymakers, academic experts, industry and media. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak said UK immigration numbers are 'too high'. (Getty Images)

On Thursday, Rishi Sunak was unequivocal in his position, telling ITV: “Numbers are too high, it’s as simple as that. And I want to bring them down.”

Asked whether immigration is out of control, the prime minister said: “Well, no, I think the numbers are just too high.”

Conservative MPs have warned of voter anger and frustration about the figures. Aaron Bell said his constituents “will expect to see them fall”, while Louie French said the “unsustainable levels of migration” were having a “significant impact” on housing in south-east England.

Estimated long-term net migration to the UK. (PA)
Estimated long-term net migration to the UK. (PA)

Sir Keir Starmer's Labour has also called for a cut to migration numbers. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said: “We’ve said we think that the net migration figures should come down." However, she would not provide a specific figure.

Meanwhile, responding to the figures, the Migration Watch think tank, which campaigns for lower immigration, launched its own “Campaign to Cut Immigration”.

Chair Alp Mehmet said: “The prime minister has abandoned any effort to cut immigration from these stratospheric levels. So, we will now campaign for the public to sign a petition calling for net migration to be cut to less than 100,000 a year. This will be an opportunity, at last, for the public to express their concern about the fundamental changes to the nature of Britain. We really are standing on the edge of the cliff."

'Strong public support for main drivers of migration'

Alicia Kearns warned Tory colleagues against 'knee-jerk' responses to the migration figures. (PA)
Alicia Kearns warned Tory colleagues against 'knee-jerk' responses to the migration figures. (PA)

It’s worth pointing out that a 2021 study by the British Future think tank showed more Britons are positive about immigration (46%) as opposed to negative (28%).

And Marley Morris of the Institute for Public Policy Research, which describes itself as the UK’s “pre-eminent progressive think tank”, said: “The government should beware knee-jerk reactions to these figures, given they reflect a unique set of circumstances, including a series of humanitarian crises and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Moreover, there is strong public support for the main drivers of net migration, including recruitment into the NHS, international students, and humanitarian routes.”

Meanwhile, not all Tory MPs agree immigration is too high. Alicia Kearns, chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, was another to warn against “knee-jerk reactions on migration”.

“We’ve proudly offered refuge to Ukrainians & BNOs [British Nationals (Overseas)] and need to fill jobs wealth creators have made," she said.