Brexit already having an impact on number of EU nationals moving to the UK

by Ray Clancy on December 4, 2017

One of the main reasons that people in Britain voted to leave the European Union was to have more control over immigration and official figures show that Brexit already seems to have had an impact.

Fewer people are moving to the UK with the data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealing that net migration has registered its biggest fall ever in the wake of the historic Brexit vote to hit the lowest level since 2014.



Net migration fell by more than 106,000 in the year after the EU referendum to 230,000 with the figures also showing that long term immigration was down significantly while emigration rose slightly.

It means that if the decline continues then the target that the Government wants to reduce immigration down to around 100,000 may well be achievable. The 106,000 decline is the largest fall in any 12-month period since records began in 1964 and represents a reduction of around a third. But it’s important to note that this fall was from a very high net migration figure of 336,000 in the year to June 2016.

Over three quarters of the fall in net migration was due to EU citizens. The largest falls were from citizens of western EU countries, the EU15 group, for example France, Germany and Spain, and central and eastern Europe countries ,the EU8 group, for example Poland.

‘The decline follows historically high levels of immigration and it is too early to say whether this represents a long- term trend,’ said ONS head of International Migration Statistics Nicola White.

She pointed out that net migration had been increasing since 2012. The recent fall sees net migration returning to the level we saw in 2014. This level of net migration is not unusual as we have seen net migration vary between 140,000 and 336,000 over the last 20 years.

A breakdown of the data shows that the number of people immigrating for a definite job has remained stable but there has been a 43% decrease in the number of people immigrating to look for work over the last year, especially for EU citizens.

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.

The figures also show that the number of EU nationals applying for British citizenship more than doubled, suggesting that they want to make sure they can stay after Brexit in 2019.

In the year to the end of June 2017 some 28,500 EU nationals applied to become British citizens, up 80% compared with the previous year. EU nationals need to be living in the UK for a minimum period before they can be granted UK citizenship, so are likely to have been longer-term residents rather than recent arrivals.

Applications from non-EU nationals to become British citizens have fallen by 44% since 2010, probably because of the recent reduction in non-EU nationals settling in the UK as well as changes to eligibility.

Businesses in the UK need to start adjusting now to a new era of lower migration, according to the Resolution Foundation whose own research shows that the recent fall in migrant workers has been especially pronounced in London and among EU-born graduates, while the number of low and mid-skilled EU migrant workers continues to rise.

‘Brexit was always going to radically reshape Britain’s labour market, but these migration figures suggest that change is already playing out. EU citizens may well be reacting to the Brexit vote, but they are also making choices based on the relative value of the pound and better job prospects in Europe,’ said Stephen Clarke, economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation.

‘The significant fall in EU migration will be felt most clearly in areas like London, and in industries like food manufacturing and hospitality which tend to have high levels of staff turnover and are heavily reliant on migrant labour,’ he pointed out.

‘Businesses across Britain need to prepare now for a new era of lower migration. This could include finding new ways to recruit UK born workers, no mean feat in an already tight labour market, reskilling existing staff, or investing in more productivity enhancing technology,’ he added.

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