It’s not true that more migrants arrived in the UK in two years than between 1066 and 2010

3 June 2024
What was claimed

Rishi Sunak welcomed more migrants in just two years than arrived between 1066 and 2010.

Our verdict

False. In the last two years estimated immigration to the UK was approximately 2.5 million. We don’t have data going back to 1066, but between 1855 and 2010 estimated immigration totalled 32.5 million.

A graphic shared on X (formerly Twitter) by Reform UK leader Richard Tice claims Rishi Sunak “welcomed more migrants in just two years” than arrived “between 1066 and 2010”.

This is not true.

Assuming “two years” refers to the last two years of immigration data (the year ending December 2022 and the year ending December 2023)—which overlap partially with Mr Sunak’s premiership—long-term immigration to the UK was an estimated 2,475,000.

We’ve not found immigration data going back to 1066—and we’ve asked Reform UK what the evidence for its claim is. But data we do have, which goes back to the 19th century, shows that immigration over the past century and a half, let alone over almost the past millennium, totalled far more than the amount seen in the last two years.

The Bank of England has published historic immigration figures dating back to 1855. These figures show that between 1855 and 2010 (excluding the wartime period between 1939 and 1946, for which figures aren’t available), estimated immigration to the UK totalled 32,522,000.

It’s worth noting that the way in which immigration is measured has changed a number of times, so figures across this period are not entirely directly comparable. Recent immigration estimates may also be subject to revision.

It is true, however, that estimated long-term immigration to the UK of 1,257,000 in 2022 was the highest on record (it has since fallen slightly to an estimated 1,218,000 in 2023, though this still represents the second largest annual estimate on record).

If a politician makes a false or misleading claim on social media, they should correct this quickly in a clear and transparent manner, including on the same platform where the claim was made.

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What about net migration?

In an interview on Sky News last month, Mr Tice was asked about another graph which depicted low levels of immigration between 1066 and 1997 before a steep increase, and made reference in his response to the levels of net migration. 

This is clearly different to the claim made in the Reform UK graphic about the number of “migrants” arriving, and we’ve not seen any reliable data on net migration stretching back to 1066. 

The Bank of England data mentioned above suggests net migration between 1855 and 2010 was cumulatively negative, with net migration having only begun to be consistently positive each year in the mid-1990s, and it is true that the last two years saw the highest annual levels of net migration on record.

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