U.K. Immigration Forecast Shows Extent of Cameron Pledge Failure

Prime Minister David Cameron’s failure to deliver on a pledge before the 2010 general election to reduce net annual immigration to the U.K. to “tens of thousands” was underlined in budget documents published Wednesday.

The Office for Budget Responsibility revised its forecast for net migration to 165,000 a year “in the long term” after basing previous forecasts on a move toward 105,000 a year by mid-2019. Net migration in the year to September 2014 was 298,000, compared with 210,000 a year earlier.

“A reduction over time seems consistent with the international environment and with the government’s declared efforts to reduce it. But in light of recent evidence, it no longer seems central to assume it will decline so steeply,” the OBR said in its Economic and Fiscal Outlook, produced to accompany Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s budget.

Public concern about immigration has boosted support for the U.K. Independence Party ahead of the May 7 general election. UKIP argues immigration can only be controlled by withdrawing from the European Union, whose citizens are entitled to move and reside freely within the bloc. The party has proposed a points system for people wanting to relocate to Britain.

The OBR said it assumed the U.K. population would be 320,000 higher by 2020 than it previously thought. Of the increase, 84 percent is projected to be among 16-64-year-olds, up from 62 percent projected in December.

Potential output growth in the economy is 0.5 percent higher than forecast in December as a result of net migration, the OBR said.

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