‘Brexodus’ ramping up
Net migration to the UK from EU countries has reached a six-year low as the so-called ‘Brexodus’ continues to kick in.
The difference between the number of EU citizens entering the UK and the number leaving sank to 87,000 in the year to March, its lowest level since the year to December 2012, figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
Net EU migration has continued to fall from a peak of 189,000 in the year to June 2016, a period ending with the vote to leave the EU.
The shift has been driven by both a decline in EU arrivals and an increase in EU citizens leaving.
The Oxford University-based Migration Observatory says that the UK has become a less attractive country for EU migrants since the Brexit referendum.
Director of the Observatory Madeleine Sumption said the economics of Brexit had played a role in the trend.
“The lower value of the pound means that workers coming here for higher wages are getting less than they were in the past, and economic conditions in many of the key EU countries of origin have improved a lot over the past few years,” Ms Sumption said.
“Uncertainty about the implications of Brexit may have played a role,” she said.
A labour force survey produced by the ONS showed a record fall in the number of EU nationals working in the UK. It revealed there were 2.28 million EU nationals working in the UK between April and June, 86,000 fewer than the same period a year earlier – the largest annual fall since comparable records began in 1997.
British business groups have criticised the government’s lowering of migration targets.
A British Chambers of Commerce statement said: “These figures are nothing to celebrate, and given businesses are facing record skills gaps at every level, it’s disappointing to see the decline in people from Europe coming here to work”.
“Despite valiant efforts to recruit at home, plus heavy investment in training, employers still need great people to fill job vacancies where there are local shortages,” the statement said.
“As the UK leaves the European Union, our government should be shouting from the rooftops about its desire to keep attracting talented people from the continent and beyond who want to live and work in one of the world’s most dynamic economies.”
Despite the slowing of EU migration, the UK government has failed to hit its target of reducing overall net migration to the tens of thousands – including numbers from the EU and outside the EU – as the headline figure hit 270,000 in the year to March, an increase of 28,000 year on year.
ONS figures showed that around 270,000 more people came to the UK than left last year, so net migration is continuing to add to the UK population.
“Net migration has been broadly stable since peak levels seen in 2015 and 2016. Looking at the underlying numbers we can see that EU net migration has fallen, as fewer EU citizens are arriving in the UK, and has now returned to the level last seen in 2012,” the ONS said.
The UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research said the figures on migration from the EU suggest that uncertainty over their status is leading EU nationals to leave in higher numbers.
“As a result, even before we leave the EU, key sectors of our economy which depend on EU workers – from construction to social care – are facing skills shortages,” the Institute said.
Earlier this month, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called on the government to drop its migration targets after Brexit to make sure companies could recruit the workers they needed.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist