More European Union workers are leaving the United Kingdom on account of Brexit vote forcing immigration figures to fall by nearly one third in a period of 12 months, report from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) has shown.
The ONS says around 246,000 net long-term international migrants were in the country in the year ending March 2017, down 81,000 on the previous 12 months.
The reduction was through both a drop in immigration – down 50,000 to 588,000 – and a rise in emigration – up 31,000 to 342,000 – both of which were described as “statistically significant changes”.
More than half of the total change is down to EU citizens, with the numbers emigrating rising to 33,000, alongside a decrease of 19,000 in immigration. EU8 emigration was particularly high, up 17,000, ONS found.
Of the 275,000 who came to the UK to work, the majority had a definite job (188,000), with a reduction in the numbers looking for work (down 39,000 to 87,000).
Nicola White, head of international migration statistics, said:“We have seen a fall in net migration driven by an increase in emigration, mainly for EU citizens and in particular EU8 citizens, and a decrease in immigration across all groups.
“International migration for work remains the most common reason for migration with people becoming increasingly likely to move to the UK or overseas only with a definite job than to move looking for work.
“These results are similar to 2016 estimates published in May 2017, and indicate that the EU referendum result may be influencing people’s decision to migrate into and out of the UK, particularly EU and EU8 citizens. It is too early to tell if this is an indication of a long-term trend.”
The number of people coming to the UK to study for all nationalities also dropped significantly, by 27,000 to 139,000. The majority were non-EU citizens, which dropped 20,000 on last year to 93,000.
Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “No one should celebrate these numbers. Given unemployment is currently at its lowest level ever (4.5 per cent), without the three million EU citizens living here the UK would have an acute labour shortage. Signs that it is becoming a less attractive place to live and work are a concern.
“The IoD has been warning for some time that the ongoing uncertainty over the status and rights of EU citizens already living here is leading to a brain drain of EU staff. We hope that an agreement can be reached as soon as possible to provide reassurance to EU workers and enable the Brexit negotiations to progress to the next stage.
“The drop in the number of people coming here to study should also serve as a warning. Higher education is a key sector of our economy and being open to the best students and workers from around the world is vital for the success of British business. We welcome the government’s announcement of a consultation to build on the existing evidence highlighting the significant contribution international students make to our country and economy.
“The admission that so few students overstay their visa rubbishes the idea that they should be included in the net migration figures. We hope that this consultation will be the first step in correctly classifying international students as “temporary residents”, as they are in the US, Canada, and Australia.”