David Cameron puts a negative spin on the figures, but the fact that skilled migrants are attracted to the UK’s relatively strong economy is good news

We learned yesterday that an estimated 641,000 people immigrated to Britain in 2014 – the highest ever annual figure. Earlier, a few people were hauled off in handcuffs by the border force for their alleged involvement in illegal immigration, with the TV cameras present. The television correspondents were shrewd enough to make the point that the pictures the Home Office laid on to illustrate their news packages on the migration statistics actually had no bearing on those figures, though they used the pictures anyway.

The same was true of much of the briefing ahead of the prime minister’s big immigration speech. That focused on the new government’s plans for yet more stringent crackdowns on illegal work, a tougher approach to deportation and further curbs on migrants’ access to benefits. In the speech itself, however, a substantial section was devoted to the real reason why immigration is booming – and has been for many years – the fact that this country continues to need and therefore to attract high levels of workers and foreign students.

Related: Figures show immigration surge as Cameron unveils illegal working bill

David Cameron and Theresa May seem determined to stop this tide of skilled and intelligent people coming to the UK

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