Amid an EU-migrant ‘Brexodus’, the number of people moving to UK from outside Europe has reached its highest level in 14 years
EU citizens are increasingly being replaced by non-EU migrants
The number of people moving to the UK from outside the EU has reached its highest level for 14 years, raising questions about promises made to cut immigration by the government and pro-Brexit campaigners.
Amid an EU-migrant “Brexodus”, some 248,000 more non-EU citizens arrived than left in the year ending in June, their highest net migration since 2004, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
By comparison, a net total of 74,000 EU migrants came to Britain in the same period, the lowest level since 2012, and down 28% compared to 2017.
According to Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, the number of EU migrants leaving the UK is now at a record high, while net migration to the UK from the EU has fallen by more than 60% since the 2016 referendum.
Madeleine Sumption, the director of the Migration Observatory, said: “The lower value of the pound is likely to have made the UK a less attractive place to live and work and economic conditions in several of the top countries of origin for EU migrants have improved.”
Meanwhile, the ONS says increases in non-EU immigration for work and study have been driven predominantly by more Asian citizens entering the country, while Home Office data shows a 15% rise in visa grants for skilled workers, particularly for Indian nationals.
With employment at near-record highs, many of these have been brought in to fill the gap left by departing EU migrants.
The Daily Telegraph says “the data casts doubt on the government’s ability to meet Theresa May’s election manifesto target of reducing immigration to tens of thousands”.
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said: “The data reinforces the view that the government’s net migration target is reckless and foolish. The target has never once been met and non-EU migration alone far outstrips it.”
The figures come as the government prepares to release its proposals for an immigration system post-Brexit, “plans that have been much delayed and so far described in only vague terms”, says Sky News.
Earlier this week, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, admitted the government’s planned post-Brexit immigration scheme might abandon the target of keeping net annual migration to the tens of thousands. He also indicated the much-vaunted White Paper may not be published before MPs vote on Theresa May’s withdrawal bill on 11 December.
Some committee members “expressed disquiet that the Commons might have to decide on the Brexit deal without knowing a key policy element”, The Guardian says.
It has also drawn attention to the promises made during the EU referendum that a vote to leave the EU would allow Britain to take back control of its immigration policy, a slogan interpreted by many as lowering the numbers of foreigners coming to the UK.
Analysis of different Brexit scenarios published by the government on Wednesday showed losses to economic growth would worsen significantly if net migration from EU citizens was to fall to zero.
Conservative MP Phillip Lee, who resigned from the government over its Brexit strategy, said: “EU nationals are the pillar which support fundamental public services in this country. We cannot sit back and watch vital public services like our NHS be damaged by Brexit. That’s not what leave voters were promised in 2016,” he said.
Along with the return of British sovereignty and the ability to strike new trade deals with the rest of the world, immigration was the main driving force behind 2016’s shock referendum result.
With two of these coming under serious scrutiny this week, the case made in favour of Brexit is looking increasingly precarious.