UK population to be bigger than France for first time ever after record migration
Published: 26/05/2023- 15:06
Britain's population is on track to overtake France for the first time ever after record high net migration figures hit more than 600,000 last year.
France currently remains the second-largest country within Europe but the new statistics mean the UK is track to overhaul France by 2025.
In 2021 - the latest figure for which comparable figures were available - the UK had about 700,000 fewer residents than France.
Britain’s net migration topped 606,000 last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), while France’s statistical agency estimates its net migration at 161,000.
France currently remains the second-largest country within Europe but the new statistics mean the UK is track to overhaul France by 2025
Figures show the UK had a total population of 67,026,292, while France stood at 67,710,000 and Germany had a population of 83,129,285 in mid-2021.
The UK’s population is already larger than that of “metropolitan France” – the part of the country located within Europe.
France and the UK have similar levels of “natural change” - the number of births minus the number of deaths.
“Today’s record immigration stats puts the UK on track to overtake France’s population by 2025," Maxwell Marlow of the free-market Adam Smith Institute told iNews.
"It should be noted that we have elevated incoming migration owing to our leading support for Hong Kongers and Ukrainian refugees, as well as very high numbers of students because of our flagship education sector.”
Turkey and Russia, which have larger populations than the UK, France and Germany, are not included in the comparison as they are not wholly in Europe.
According to the ONS, the surge in Britain's numbers was driven by 1.2 million immigrants, where the majority - who were non-EU nationals - mainly arrived for work, study and humanitarian reasons.
The figures are lower than experts had forecast, but will result in demands from Conservative MPs to go further to clamp down on the record-high numbers.
The surge in net migration is likely to pile further pressure on Sunak to implement further measures.
Jonathan Portes, a former top civil servant and senior fellow at the UK In A Changing Europe think-tank, added: “The UK, like almost all European countries, has fertility well below replacement levels, but migration means that unlike lots of European countries we don’t have a falling population.
The surge in net migration is likely to pile further pressure on Sunak to implement further measures
“On the whole, my view is that is a good thing in the sense that rising population is a problem, but it’s not as big a problem as falling population. Rising population is a problem as you have congestion, where do you build the houses, we are more dense, and that’s bad."
During a recent trip to Japan, Sunak promised action to bring down net migration, telling reporters that the “numbers are too high”, but refused to commit to stick to Boris Johnson’s 2019 promise to bring down the overall figures to below 245,000.
According to ONS figures, the number of family members of foreign students arriving in the UK more than doubled to 85,000.
As part of attempts to reduce net migration, the Government announced that overseas students will be banned from bringing dependants to the UK from January 2024.
The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford suggested the numbers had “peaked”.