THE aftermath of the Brexit vote may have affected the dramatic decrease in net migration to the UK, it has been suggested in a new report released last Thursday (30).
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed EU citizens leaving Great Britain increased by 29 per cent to 123,000 with 43,000 of those saying they were returning to their native countries.
The figures are the highest level of EU emigration from the UK since 2008.
The statistics showed overall that over 550,000 people arrived in Britain, while over 340,000 emigrated.
Nicola White, the ONS head of international migration statistics, has suggested that Brexit is “likely” to be a factor in people’s decision to move to or from the UK.
She also noted that data since the EU referendum vote took place in 2016 shows a decrease in the number of people coming to live in the UK and an increase in the number leaving.
Additionally, although the number of individuals immigrating for certain employment has remained constant, there has been a 43 per decrease in the number of people, especially EU citizens, moving to look for work over the last year.
“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,” White said.
She further suggested it was “too early” to tell if the decline “[represented] a long-term trend”.
The professor of economics at King’s College London, Jonathan Portes, said it “[could not be] good news” to hear the statistics suggesting the country is a less attractive place to live and work.
“We will be poorer as a result,” Portes said. “If the government wants to make Brexit a success, it needs to reverse this.”
He predicted that net migration to Britain was likely to fall further to 150,000 over the next few years.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said the decrease in net migration “should sound an alarm for the UK economy and employers if the overall trend continues in the months and years ahead”.
Immigration minister Brandon Lewis said the government has been clear it wants to “attract and retain” individuals who wish to come to the country.
“With more Europeans continuing to arrive than leave, these figures show that claims of a ‘Brexodus’ are misguided,” he went on.
“At the same time, there is no consent for uncontrolled immigration. We welcome the ongoing decrease in net migration levels and remain committed to bringing them down to sustainable levels, the tens of thousands.”
A spokesman for prime minister Theresa May said the figures revealed “progress has been made in that direction,” although he downplayed the data regarding the decline of EU migration.
“It’s quite clear that EU nationals are still arriving in the UK and are still making a significant contribution here,” the spokesman said.
May’s conservative party pledged to reduce annual net migration to “tens of thousands”, whilst campaigning for the general election earlier this year.
Labour politician and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott stated the Tory government should drop their “meaningless” target.
“This isn’t a genuine policy but allows a permanent campaign against migrants and migration,” she said. “The Tories’ chaotic mishandling of the Brexit negotiations has already seen many sectors experiencing severe staff shortages, including the NHS and social care.”
Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.