Migration to Britain from non-EU countries hits all time high since 2004 as EU migration levels rise

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Net migration from the EU into the UK is at its highest level in 14 years as rising numbers of EU migrants ditch the UK ahead of Brexit, official figures revealed this week.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), around 248,000 more citizens from non-EU countries joined the UK than left in the year ending in June revealing the highest net migration since 2004 – more than 40% in one year.

Net EU migration figures total around 74,000 – the lowest level since 2012 as emigration by EU migrants from the UK, termed ‘Brexodus’, rose by 18% annually to 145,000.

This meant that the population of Britain grew by 273,000 as a result of immigration in the year to June, and 49,000 British citizens emigrated in the same time period.

The ONS data raises questions about the governing Conservative party’s ability to follow through on the goal to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands as presented in Prime Minister Theresa May’s election manifesto.

Director of UCL’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) Professor Christian Dustmann said that this rise may be a result of employers recruiting more non-EU citizens to make up for the decline in EU workers migrating to Britain. 

Professor Dustmann points out that the UK is less desirable for EU migrations as the exchange rate drops, there are positive economic developments in other European countries (Germany has hit its highest ever employment levels) and, of course, with the uncertainty of Brexit.

ONS data shows that the amount of EU citizens moving to the UK for work in the past year has declined, particularly among the EU15, one of which is Germany.

EU citizens arriving in the UK with a firm job was down 32,000 to 77,000, and from the EU15 down 26,000 to 34,000.

The figures demonstrate more EU-8 eastern European citizens, including citizens from the Czech Republic and Poland, ditched the UK than immigrated, totalling a net 14,000 citizens emigrating.

The ONS states: "This has been driven by a decrease in EU8 immigration, particularly for work, and an increase in emigration over the last two years."

Citizens of 14 longer-term EU member states including French, German, Italian and Spanish citizens increasingly add to the population of Britain with a net migration of 47,000. 

The 248,000 net migration figure from non-EU countries was 80% higher on the low of 138,000 in mid-2013. The ONS put this down to immigration for study and work, in particular Asian citizens who totalled nearly two thirds of this figure. The largest inflows came from China and India at more than 100,000. 

The Chairman of Migration Watch UK, Lord Green, said the levels of non-EU migration were a result of Government’s failure to actively reduce it in recent years. Chief policy director at the CBI said that the statistics draw attention to the continued trend of falling net EU migration whilst there continues to be a growing need for a multi-skilled workforce in the UK.

Minister for Immigration, Caroline Nokes, said that the Government is dedicated to a “controlled and sustainable” migration and was positive about the overall drop in net migration from its height of 370,000 in 2016.

Applications for British citizenship from EU nationals increased by 32% to 43,545 in the year to September, according to different Home Office figures. 

Romanian citizens are the second most common after Polish to be residing in the UK, after a rise of 21% to 433,000 Romanians now living in the UK.

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