The number of EU workers from eight eastern European countries in the UK has passed a million for the first time, new figures show.

Labour market data shows just over one million people from the group of states, including Poland and Czech Republic, were employed in the three months to June.

The figure relates to the so-called A8 nations – Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – which joined the EU in 2004.

Compared with the same period last year, the number of workers from the countries increased by around 44,000. And it is nearly four times the level recorded 10 years ago, when the number stood at just over a quarter of a million.

The official statistics also showed there were 266,000 Bulgarians and Romanians in employment – a rise of around 87,000 compared with the second quarter of 2015.

Restrictions on people from the two countries working in the UK were lifted in January 2014.There were an estimated 944,000 employees from 14 other EU member states including Italy, Portugal, Spain and France.

Overall, between April and June there were 2.23 million EU nationals working in the UK – an increase of 238,000 year-on-year.

The number of workers from outside the EU was little changed at 1.21 million, according to the official data.

Statisticians say the estimates relate to the number of people in employment and should not be used as a proxy for flows of foreign migrants into the UK.

Immigration was seen as a key issue ahead of June’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

Earlier this year a row broke out over differences between measures of long-term international migration and the number of National Insurance numbers given to EU nationals.

An official report concluded that migrants coming to Britain for short period were the main driver behind a gap in statistics that fuelled claims arrivals from the bloc had been underestimated.

Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of campaign group Migration Watch UK, said: “These figures represent a milestone in EU migration to Britain.

“We now have over one million workers who were born in the EU8 countries of Eastern Europe, nearly a million from the EU14 and already a quarter of a million from Romania and Bulgaria.

“The pressures that this massive migration has placed on local communities go a long way to explaining the outcome of the referendum.

“The new statistics underline why it is essential not just to regain control of our borders but also to reduce net migration significantly.”

Labour MP Frank Field said the figures “show how crucial it is that one aspect of Brexit’s success must be the control of our borders”.

He added: “This can best be done by introducing a points system and accompanying this with active measures to build up the skill levels of our existing labour force.”

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: “The labour market statistics suggest that the UK labour market remained relatively strong in the months leading up to the referendum.

“There have been steady increases in the numbers of foreign-born people who are in work, driven by a combination of net migration and a higher share of non-EU migrants who are already living in the UK finding work.

“What does this tell us about the potential impacts of Brexit on migration? For the moment, not much.

“It is too early to know how attractive a destination post-Brexit UK will be, or to identify any evidence of a ‘rush’ of people coming to the UK while free movement rules still apply.”

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