James Slack and Daniel Martin, Daily Mail, May 11, 2016
Dishonest politicians have ‘misled’ the British public over the true scale of mass immigration from the EU, Boris Johnson declared last night.
He hit out on the eve of the publication of a bombshell report expected to reveal the numbers pouring into the UK have been under-counted for years.
The study is intended to explain why an 1.3million more National Insurance numbers have been given out to EU citizens than are accounted for in official statistics.
Experts predict the number of incomers could be 50,000 more than are recorded every year.
MPs and ministers accused Number Ten–which is rattled by its failure to take a commanding lead in the EU referendum–of trying to bury bad news.
The Office for National Statistics report was due to be published at the end of the month–only a month from polling day.
But the timing has been brought forward to today, when it will clash with major Government statement to the Commons on the future of the BBC and the fight against Islamic State in Syria.
Mr Johnson, speaking at the launch of the Leave campaign’s road campaign, said there had been a huge rise in immigration ‘without consent’ from the public.
He said politicians had been driven to ‘dishonesty’ because they did not want to admit they cannot control immigration while Britain is inside the EU.
The Tory big-hitter’s comments will be seen as a further swipe at David Cameron over his long-standing promise to reduce net migration to below 100,000-a-year–a target he has consistently failed to meet.
Mr Johnson went on: ‘It has been misleading. There is no question that it has been misleading. Politicians have been driven into this dishonesty about it by the EU’s arrangements.”
He went on: ‘Politicians, if they’re going to have a pro-migration policy, should take responsibility for it, stand up and explain why they want hundreds of thousands as opposed to tens of thousands and then say it.
‘I think we’ve got a crazy situation now where we can’t control immigration from the EU 28. To add a city the size of Newcastle every year to the UK. We have seen nothing like it in I think 80million years or so. To put it this way it is too high to do without consent. That is the issue. There’s no consent.
‘It might be that a party or a Government or politicians could persuade people if they genuinely believed that this was a good thing that it was going to turbo charge the economy and all the rest of it. What is not is acceptable is to say there’s nothing we can do.’
MPs accused Number Ten of putting pressure on the ONS to bring forward the publication date for the report on National Insurance numbers.
Last night, one minister told the Mail: ‘The ONS should never allow itself to be used like this in what has to be a totally political way.’
Tory MP Anne Main said: ‘The Government is doing its level best to hold back as much negative information on the referendum as possible. Even when asking fairly simple questions, backbenchers are finding that there are delays, or the answers are vague and unsatisfactory–if our questions are even being answered at all.
Ex-Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘I have always been in favour of full disclosure on immigration, which is why I unreservedly welcome the publication of this data at last.‘
A row has been raging over the true scale of EU immigration since the Government refused Freedom of Information requests at the end of last year.
Figures from the ONS–which are supposed to count people into the country–show some 919,000 EU migrants have arrived in Britain since June 2010. But, in the same period of time, officials have issued 2.2 million NI numbers to EU migrants.
MPs say the gap suggests huge numbers of incomers may have been missed by the ONS–leaving officials in the dark about the true scale of the pressure being placed on hospitals and schools.
In a sustained campaign, backed by the Mail, Brexit campaigners and economists have called for the release of the ‘active’ NI numbers, which means those which are currently being used to claim benefits or pay taxes.
After resisting for months, the HMRC agreed last month to pass the information to the ONS. The ONS originally planned to release it on May 26–less than a month before the referendum.
Last month, a study by Migrationwatch predicted net migration from inside the EU was around 50,000-a-year higher than official statistics admit.
Number Ten denied being involved in the timing of the release. A spokesman said: ‘It’s their publication. The ONS decide on when the publish it.’