Net migration from EU to UK falls to lowest on record
Read this in the FT: https://www.ft.com/content/c9d43244-e404-11e7-97e2-916d4fbac0da
Brexit, weaker pound and European economy cited as factors in Q2 drop
Net immigration to the UK from the EU in the second quarter of this year fell to its lowest level since records began, according to official figures published on Monday.
Some experts said Brexit appeared to have played a significant role in the decline in the number of EU nationals coming to the UK.
Following a request from the Financial Times, the Office for National Statistics published figures for the Q2 period between April and June. These showed net immigration from the EU was only 9,000. The agency said this was not statistically different from zero.
In this second quarter, 39,000 people came to the UK from the other 27 EU member states to live for more than a year, while 30,000 were recorded as leaving.
This contributed to net immigration to the UK from the rest of the world in the year to June falling to 230,000, a drop of 100,000.
The inflow to the UK between April and June was the lowest since the ONS began publishing quarterly figures about immigration that go back to the start of 2015. The outflow has only been exceeded twice, both in the past year.
The ONS data came as Amber Rudd, the home secretary, prepared to write to EU nationals living in the UK to reassure them about their future status following the UK’s deal reached last week with the bloc over the Brexit divorce terms, including citizens’ rights.
“The agreement we have reached ensures the rights you and your family currently have remain broadly the same with access to healthcare, benefits and pensions protected,” Ms Rudd says in her letter to EU citizens published on Tuesday.
The ONS cautioned that care was needed interpreting the immigration numbers because seasonal fluctuations are significant, but added that it now proposed to publish the quarterly data on a regular basis from next year.
These quarterly figures risk becoming a regular test of Theresa May’s success in maintaining a post-Brexit UK as an attractive destination for EU workers, who tend to be young, employed and pay more in taxes than they receive in public spending.
Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford university’s Migration Observatory, an independent body analysing migration trends, said that although net immigration between April and June was statistically no different from zero, it was tricky to see how unusual that was because comparable quarterly data go back only to 2015.
Since the EU referendum in June 2016, however, she said, “what’s interesting is the sheer suddenness of the fall in EU net immigration . . . the fact the decline was so sudden and the timing coincidental with the referendum suggests Brexit has played a significant role”.
Exactly how much of the fall is attributable to the vote to leave the EU is debatable, she added, because a weaker UK economy, the fall in the value of sterling and a “sense that the UK is no longer a welcoming place for migrants” has also come after a period of record net immigration and a strengthening of the eurozone economy.
Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London, said: “These figures confirm there has been a sharp fall in EU migration since the referendum. The question is whether this will persist and accelerate or whether this [fall] is a temporary and associated with uncertainty earlier this year over EU citizens rights in the UK”.
In the third quarter of this year, the net immigration figures are likely to rise because of overseas students entering the country in September.