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Fewer people leaving the UK to work abroad, latest figures show

by Ray Clancy on May 27, 2016

Fewer British people are leaving the country to move abroad, with 14,000 less becoming expats in 2015, official figures show.

But the UK is still popular with people from other countries and the data from the Office of National Statists (ONS) shows that annual net immigration increased to 333,000 in 2015, just 3,000 below its record peak.

The net immigration figure was 20,000 higher than the 2014 figure and the ONS said the difference was driven by a 14,000 fall in the number of British citizens emigrating to live abroad.

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Total emigration in 2015 was 297,000 and far below its peak a decade ago when it was 427,000. It is suggested that the strength of the UK jobs market means that fewer people are seeking jobs abroad. Those who do leave go predominately Australia, France and the United States.

The net immigration of European Union citizens to the UK, that is those who come to live in the country for more than 12 months minus those who left Britain to live abroad for more than 12 months, was estimated to be 184,000 in 2015, some 10,000 higher than the previous year.

The latest employment statistics from the Labour Force Survey show that more citizens of other EU countries are moving to the UK to work. The estimated employment level of EU nationals, excluding British, living in the UK was 2.1 million in the first quarter of 2016, some 224,000 higher than the same quarter last year.

Immigration to Britain of non-EU citizens fell by 10,000 last year to 277,000 with the decline largely down to lower numbers of Asian students, including those from China and India, coming to study, particularly in British further education colleges.

The number of overseas students coming to British universities and colleges has fallen to 167,000, its lowest level since 2007. The largest single group of overseas students are now from China who made up a third of all non-EU study visas in 2015, followed by students from the United States, India and Malaysia.

The figures are likely to prove controversial less than a month until the people of the UK vote to decide whether or not to stay in the EU. Immigration has been a major issue in the debate ahead of the referendum on 23 June.

The current Government has pledged to reduce immigration but critics say it is unable to stem the tide, especially from EU countries, and that leaving the EU will help to reduce the numbers.

According to Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of Migration Watch UK, the figures are as serious disappointment. He believe they show that no progress is being made in terms of reducing immigration.

“Virtually half of it now comes from the EU and there is no reason to think that this will fall. Our recent research suggests that East European migration has been undercounted by 50,000 a year. If we are right, and nobody has challenged us, net migration is actually running at nearly 400,000 a year,” he pointed out.

“The effect on housing and public services will be enormous unless and until there is decisive action to bring these numbers down,” he added.

However, James Brokenshire, the UK Immigration Minister, said that while net immigration remained too high, leaving the EU was not the solution.

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