The claim is true, but it doesn’t include the number of people migrating from the UK to the EU: net migration in 2015 was +184,000. There is no single source that tracks migration to Northern Ireland. Medical card registrations are one method. The 2011 Census showed that 2.16% of the Northern Ireland population held an EU/EEA passport.

The Leave Campaign recently published a leaflet with ‘eight facts’ to support their case for leaving the European Union (EU). The first ‘fact’ is about migration: “Over a quarter of a million people migrate to the UK from the EU every year.” There is no statement in the leaflet about net migration (immigrants minus emigrants) nor the scale of immigration to Northern Ireland.

Net migration to the UK

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that in 2015, 630,000 immigrants (i.e. those who change their country of residence for at least one year) entered the United Kingdom (UK). At the same time, 297,000 people left the UK. This sets net migration for that year at +333,000 people.

Of the 630,000 immigrants to the UK in 2015: 270,000 came from the EU, 277,000 came from the rest of the world, and 83,000 were British citizens returning to the UK.

While there were 270,000 immigrants from the EU in 2015, another 85,000 EU citizens emigrated from the UK; net migration from the EU to the UK in 2015 was +184,000.

From the independent think tank, Migration Watch UK, the following graph shows net migration of EU citizens to the UK, based on ONS data, from 1991-2015:

Net migration to Northern Ireland

There is no single source that tracks migration to Northern Ireland. NISRA estimates international (i.e. outside the UK) migration to Northern Ireland by using the registration and de-registration of medical cards. This produced the following graph, which shows inflows, outflows, and net international migration to Northern Ireland, from 2000-2014:

From the graph above, for 2014 net migration to Northern Ireland is estimated at +2,237 people.

This NISRA report also presented a count of medical card registrations from non-UK nationals, by country of last residence. From this data, the following table shows registrations from previous EU residents, from 2010-2015 (n.b. de-registration data not presented here):

Country(Jan 2010 – 
Dec 2010)
(Jan 2011 – 
Dec 2011)
(Jan 2012 – 
Dec 2012)
(Jan 2013 – 
Dec 2013)
(Jan 2014 – 
Dec 2014)
Czech Republic10998106101119
Irish Republic1,6321,5461,4721,6121,549
Portugal211256415486 –

One can infer EU migration from the 2011 Census in Northern Ireland. By tracking passport ownership, data was collected on the nationalities of everyone in the country at the time of the census. There were 39,103 EU/EEA passports among the total population of 1,810,863. This amounts to 2.16% of the population.

Image: “20150306 Belonging Project P3060008” by Allan Leonard licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0

FactCheckNI is Northern Ireland’s first and only dedicated independent fact-checking service and a verified signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can learn more about about FactCheckNI, our personnel, what our article verdicts mean, and how to submit a claim.