By Daniel Hunter

Immigrants from the 10 EU member states which joined in 2004 have contributed nearly £5bn more to the UK economy than they have taken out in benefits, according to a new study.

The University College London's Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration found that immigrants from Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia contributed £4.96bn more in taxes than they took out in benefits between 2004 and 2011.

The report includes the immigrants share of all public services costs - including fixed and variable costs. If fixed costs, liked defence and armed forces, are excluded, the net contribution rises to £10.5bn.

But the report has received some strong criticism. Sir Andrew Green, chairman of pressure group Migration Watch, told the BBC: "If you take all EU migration including those who arrived before 2001 what you find is this: you find by the end of the period they are making a negative contribution and increasingly so.

"And the reason is that if you take a group of people while they're young fit and healthy they're not going to be very expensive but if you take them over a longer period they will be."

Professor Christian Dustmann, co-author of the study, said: "A key concern in the public debate on migration is whether immigrants contribute their fair share to the tax and welfare systems.

"Our new analysis draws a positive picture of the overall fiscal contribution made by recent immigrant cohorts, particularly of immigrants arriving from the EU.

"European immigrants, particularly, both from the new accession countries and the rest of the European Union, make the most substantial contributions."

But Sir Andrew said: "This report confirms that immigration as a whole has cost up to £150bn in the last 17 years.

"As for recent European migrants, even on their own figures - which we dispute - their contribution to the exchequer amounts to less than £1 a week per head of our population."

Immigration has become a key political battleground following the rise in public awareness of UKIP. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate the UK's membership with the EU.

Restrictions of the freedom of movement of workers within the EU is high on the agenda of the government. But earlier this week, German news magazine Der Spiegel quoted sources close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that she would rather see the UK leave the EU than compromise on the principle of freedom of movement for workers.

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