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The UK population debate: Time to move beyond the rhetoric

05 Sep 2012

Using immigration policy to keep the UK’s population under 70 million would only be achievable by radical policy change and much deeper cuts to net migration than those needed to reach the government’s ‘tens of thousands’ target, a major new report from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford concludes today.

The report, Britain’s 70 Million Debate, has been produced by the Migration Observatory to inform policy makers ahead of Thursday’s (September 6th) parliamentary debate, triggered by an e-petition calling for the government to take “all necessary steps” to reduce immigration to levels that would stabilise the UK population below 70 million.

Dr Martin Ruhs, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “There are three sets of key questions that this debate needs to cover – first, what are the objectives of population limits and why 70 million rather than a higher or lower number? second, what are the consequences and trade-offs involved? and third, how could the necessary cuts to net migration be achieved in practice?”

The Migration Observatory’s new report provides detailed analysis to help debate these questions considering the evidence available.

Dr Ruhs added: “If this debate is to move beyond rhetoric and into substance, it cannot be based on arbitrary numbers or undertaken without evidence. Our report looks in detail at the key numbers and issues, and at the trade-offs associated with the deep cuts to net-migration that the 70 million limit would require.”

There are no official projections that identify the specific level of net migration needed to keep the population from ever exceeding 70 million, but the available projections from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that it would have to be considerably below 100,000 per year.

Net-migration of 100,000 is projected to lead to a population of just under 70 million by 2035 but is likely to result in a population that exceeds 70 million in subsequent years.

MigrationWatch, the organisers of the e-petition that led to the parliamentary debate, have suggested that net migration needs to be limited to 40,000 to keep the UK population permanently below 70 million. Reducing net migration from the current level of 216,000 to 40,000 would imply a reduction of over 75 per cent – which clearly cannot happen without generating a wide range of important consequences and trade-offs.


To read the full report Britain’s 70 Million Debate: a primer on reducing immigration to manage population size visit:


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