UK net migration has biggest fall on record after Brexit vote

Sean Farrell WebFG News | 30 Nov, 2017 13:01 - Updated: 13:01 | | |

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Net migration to the UK fell by the largest amount since records began in the year following the Brexit vote, official figures show.

In the year to the end of June 230,000 more people came to the UK than left, the Office for National Statistics reported. The number was down by 106,000 from a year earlier and EU nationals made up more than three quarters of the decrease.

Net migration peaked in the year to June 2016 at 336,000 and the drop in the year since then is the biggest on record. The number of EU citizens leaving the UK rose 29% to 123,000, of which 43,000 said they were returning home – the highest EU emigration from the UK since 2008.

Nicola White, the ONS's head of international migration statistics, said: "These changes suggest that Brexit is likely to be a factor in people's decision to move to or from the UK – but decisions to migrate are complex and other factors are also going to be influencing the figures."

Britain voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016. The government has not reached an agreement about the status of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit and has maintained a target to reduce net migration to less than 100,000. Some commentators have warned of potential labour shortages for sectors such as healthcare and agriculture if EU citizens are blocked or are deterred from working in the UK.

Heather Rolfe, associate research director at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said: "These figures confirm what employers are reporting on the ground, that they are getting fewer applications from EU migrants and higher rates of turnover, including in professional and highly skilled jobs.

"Employers see this as a result of insecurity about the rights of EU citizens and their families, the fall in the value of sterling and negative rhetoric about immigration. They also reflect the climate of uncertainty about Brexit and the future health of business more generally."

The number of people coming to Britain for a definite job remained stable at 187,000 but there was a 43% fall in the number coming to look for work, especially among EU citizens.

Brandon Lewis, the immigration minister, tweeted that the numbers coming to Britain for confirmed jobs showed "our system is delivering for business needs in the UK".

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