More than five million EU citizens living in the UK have applied for settled status, nearly double the number thought to be residents before the EU referendum, official figures revealed on Thursday.
The Home Office data showed 4.9 million of the 5.4 million had already been granted settled status, of which 4.88 million were living in England. This compares with the three million that were estimated to have been in the UK at the time of the vote on Brexit in 2016.
It came as the Home Office launched a new information campaign urging EU citizens living in the UK to apply for the settlement scheme as soon as possible, before the deadline of June 30.
But senior Tory MPs said it raised questions about the quality of government data on the numbers of migrants in Britain, which is critical for Whitehall departments, councils, health trusts and schools to plan the appropriate level of services to meet local demand.
John Hayes, a former Conservative security minister, said the disparity between the estimated number and true figures demonstrated the need to improve the way the UK managed and checked migration.
“The settled status scheme is a good thing and it’s good people are committing to Britain. That’s to be welcomed. However, it’s really clear that taking back control of our borders means knowing who is coming and going,” he said.
“So once we’ve gone beyond this stage and established who is staying and who is going, we need to do one or two things urgently. The first is to take a view about population growth. The population has been growing at an unsustainable level now for many years, putting immense pressure on public services, roads. It is part of the reason for excessive housing demand which is driving up house prices.
“It really isn’t acceptable to keep growth of the population at the pace we are, because it means building hundreds of new towns or a number of new cities. Do we really want to do that? That’s the question you’ve got to ask. And if you don’t want to do it, you’ve got to do something about controlling the population.”
Sir Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the Commons liaison committee, said: “It is a welcome surprise that so many EU nationals want to stay in Brexit Britain. But it underlines why Priti Patel and the new permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft are substantially strengthening the capability of the department to deal with challenges like this.”