EU migration plummets after Brexit vote

Net migration to the UK fell by 106,000 to 230,000 in the year following the EU referendum, new figures show.

It brings the net number of people entering Britain down to 2014 levels, after they peaked just before last year’s Brexit vote.

The drop was sharpest among EU citizens: 230,000 people from the bloc immigrated to the UK from June 2016 to June 2017, down from 284,000.

At the same time, the number of EU citizens emigrating has increased – up 28,000 to 123,000.

From the rest of the world, immigration dropped from 291,000 to 263,000.

Image: The sharp fall came after Britain voted to Leave the EU

The figures, published on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics, show that the number of people moving to the UK for a “definite job” remained stable.

But the amount “looking for work” plumetted by 43% – down to 74,000.

Nicola White, head of migration statistics at the ONS, said: “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.”

She added: “The decline follows historically high levels of immigration and it is too early to say whether this represents a long-term trend.”

Earlier this year, Prime Minster Theresa May promised she would stick to her predecessor’s target of reducing net migration to under 100,000.

'We are ready to move on to phase two of Brexit talks' - May

Image: Theresa May has set a target of 100,000 net migration

Immigration minister Brandon Lewis responded that the net migration fall and rise in confirmed job-seekers highlighted “that our system is delivering for business needs in (the) UK”.

But Professor Jonathan Portes, a former chief economist for the Cabinet Office and senior fellow of ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’, said: “Whatever your views on the impact of immigration, it cannot be good news that the UK is a less attractive place to live and work, and that we will be poorer as a result.

“If the Government wants to make Brexit a success, it needs to reverse this.

“This means both action now to secure the rights of EU citizens living here, and a clear signal that we will have a liberal and economically-sensible immigration policy post-Brexit.

“Not one that is, as now, driven by arbitrary targets, or that seeks to create a ‘hostile environment’ for those coming here from abroad.”