The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed new figures that show net migration to the UK remains near record levels causing further fuel to be added to the ongoing EU referendum debate.

The difference between the number of people leaving and arriving was 323,000 in the year to September. These new figures have immediately been seized on by both sides of the debate to support their belief.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who continues to back Britain being a part of the EU, described the statistics as ‘still too high’. Despite this, he stated that the government was taking action ‘across the board’ to bring immigration down and his proposed EU deal, to limit in-work benefits for new EU migrants would ‘have an impact’ of fixing welfare issues for British Citizens.

Home Secretary Theresa May, an advocate of the remain in the EU campaign, said ‘Immigration at this level puts pressure on public services, on housing, on infrastructure… it can hold down wages and push British workers out of jobs.’ She went on to say that the Prime Ministers reforms would ‘reduce the pull factor of our welfare system and make it easier for us to deport people who are abusing our generosity’.

The government position remains confident in their commitment to get the net migration level below 100,000 by the next election in 2020.

On the opposite side of the argument, the figures, which are still near historical heights, have supported the belief that the only way to get immigration under control is to leave the EU when June’s referendum takes place.

The Institute of Directors called the government’s target for reducing net migration ‘futile and nonsensical’ because most the increase could potentially be accounted for by a reduction in the number of people leaving the UK.

The Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, Madeleine Sumption said, ‘Free movement within the EU is not the only driver of recent high levels of net migration, but it has played an important role.

While EU migration is a defining issue in the referendum debate, the truth is that it’s difficult to predict EU migration levels with confidence in either the stay or leave scenario.’

Madeleine also raised the question ‘of whether we are experiencing a temporary peak or a ‘new normal’ in the UK’ in regards to the high net migration levels.

The Reports Key Revealing’s

According to the ONS report, the results showed that net migration was at the second highest level for any 12-month period since records began. The recordings, which have been on a constant increase since the end of 2013, saw its first drop of 4% on its peak of 336,000 for the year to July 2015.

Net migration of EU citizens to the UK in the year was 172,000, with 165,000 of these coming to the country for work purposes. The report broke down the numbers of work-related migration which revealed 58% came with a definite job promise, whilst the remaining 42% came in search of work.

According to Labour Force Survey figures, Employment of EU nationals (not including UK citizens) increased by 215,000 to 2 million from October to December 2015.

Nearly half of the growth in employment over the last year in Britain was accounted for by foreign countries, with employment of non-EU nationals increasing by 38,000 to 1.2 million.

The figures highlighted that in comparison with last year, there has been an increase of 20% of asylum seeker applications, including dependants in 2015 with the number now sitting at 38,878. This is the 5th year in a row that the UK has seen an increase in applications, although it still remains below its 2002 peak of 103,081.