Figures since Brexit show how the decision has put off people moving to the UK

by Ray Clancy on January 3, 2018

Fewer people are moving to live in the UK and more people from European Union countries are leaving, new official figures show.

There’s been a fall in net migration overall, after a recent peak, and more EU citizens who live and work in the UK are applying to become British citizens.


The figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) cover the first full year since Britain voted to leave the EU and show just how immediate the impact of the decision has been.

In the year to June 2017 there were 230,000 more people coming to live in the UK than leaving the UK to live abroad, 106,000 lower than it was the year before, the largest fall in any 12-month period since records began in 1964 and represents a reduction of around a third.

But an ONS spokesman said it is important to note that this fall was from a very high net migration figure of 336,000 in the year to June 2016 and net migration has varied between 140,000 and 336,000 over the last 20 years.

However, over three quarters of the fall in net migration was due to EU citizens and the largest falls were from citizens of western EU countries, the EU15 group which includes France, Germany and Spain etc as well as central and Eastern Europe countries known as the EU8 group, for example Poland.

Although it looks as if the Brexit vote may be responsible for this, the ONS points out that some of this change might be because of economic changes across the EU, for example improved job opportunities and the fall in the value of the pound.

The data shows that overall 572,000 people came to live in the UK in the year to June 2017, a fall of 80,000 compared to the previous 12 month period. While the reduction is high, it’s from a starting point of 652,000 in the year to June 2016, which was the highest figure on record. It was driven by falls both in the numbers of EU citizens which was down 19% on the previous year as well as non-EU citizens which was down 10%, coming to the UK.

The largest change in the number of people leaving the UK was from EU citizens, increasing by 29% to 123,000. Of these EU citizens leaving some 43,000 said that their main reason for leaving was to return home, rather than because of work or for other reasons. This is an increase of 54% from the previous year. Recently the number of EU citizens leaving the UK has almost reached the higher level seen during the 2008 recession.

Of the EU citizens coming to the UK for work reasons, a greater percentage were likely to have a definite job than those arriving in previous years. The number coming to look for work has more than halved in the year to June 2017, while the number of EU citizens arriving for a definite job has remained similar.

In the year to June 2017, nearly 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.

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