One year on: EU migration plunges as Brexit damage unfolds

by Luke Lythgoe | 30.11.2017

“Brexodus” finally has a number. In the year since the referendum, net migration from EU countries has fallen by 82,000. This is bad news for the economy and shows the UK is a less attractive location for foreign workers.

But there’s a potential silver lining. Immigration concerns were the main factor for many people voting Leave last June. As the number of EU citizens coming to the UK falls off dramatically even before we leave the bloc, migration should become less of heated topic. It could even make it easier to stop Brexit.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded a big drop in overall net migration, the difference between the number of people coming into the country and those leaving. Three quarters of this was down to EU net migration plummeting. The numbers of EU citizens leaving the UK rose significantly, and the numbers arriving dropped significantly.

ONS migration figures, Nov 2017

Source: ONS
EU15: EU member states prior to 2004 enlargement.
EU8: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia.
EU2: Bulgaria, Romania.

It’s reasonable to assume that this trend will continue and even accelerate in coming months. The fall in the value of the pound and a sense of being unwelcome are key factors in EU citizens turning their backs on the UK. Even at the current rate, net EU migration could be just 25,000 the same time next year.

Not that this will let May achieve her “tens of thousands” net migration target. The amount of migration from outside the EU is much higher than migration from Europe. It was always a red herring to pin all migration to the UK on the EU – and, if Brexit goes ahead, inflows from elsewhere won’t stop.

Alongside the drop in net migration, the ONS also recorded a 13% drop in EU citizens registering for a National Insurance number, which they need to work in the UK. That’s bad news for the UK economy as it shows fewer people specifically travelling here to work. This is backed up by anecdotal evidence of fruit rotting on farmers’ trees because they can’t find staff to pick it. EU workers also tend to be younger, healthier and pay more in taxes than they take from the welfare system, so this will leave a hole in the government’s coffers.

People may have voted to control migration, but they didn’t vote to become poorer. The only way this government can fully achieve its ideology-driven anti-immigration Brexit is by crashing the economy entirely. These dramatic Brexodus figures give a chance to think about whether we really want to go down this destructive road.

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    Edited by Hugo Dixon

    One Response to “One year on: EU migration plunges as Brexit damage unfolds”

    • Just an extra piece in the migration jig-saw, there was a Guardian article, entitled: “Theresa May under fire as student visa myth exposed”, by Guardian journalists Heather Stewart, Rowena Mason and Jamie Grierson (24.08.2017). In case anyone hadn’t read this:

      “Theresa May’s determination to continue counting foreign students in the government’s immigration target left her increasingly isolated on Thursday night, after official figures revealed that fewer than 5,000 a year stay on after their visa expires.”.

      A string of Conservative and opposition politicians called on the prime minister to end the focus on overseas students as it appeared the government had been drastically overestimating the risk that they remain in Britain illegally.

      New data, published by the Office for National Statistics and based on recently created exit checks at Britain’s borders, showed just 4,600 overstayed their visa last year. Estimates for previous years had been close to 100,000.”

      End of quote