Net migration to the UK from the EU has fallen to its lowest level in more than five years, official figures show.
Around 87,000 more long-term migrants arrived from the bloc than left in the year to the end of March.
This is the lowest figure since January to December 2012.
Overall, net long-term international migration was estimated at 271,000, which is below record levels seen around 2015 and 2016 but still well above the Government’s target of below 100,000.
Year-on-year, net migration was up by just under 30,000, but statisticians attributed the rise to an anomaly in previous estimates of student immigration.
Immigration figures published since the EU referendum have sparked claims of a “Brexodus” – though commentators pointed out more people are still coming to live in the UK than departing.
Nicola Rogers, of the Office for National Statistics’ Centre for Migration, said: “Today’s figures show that around 270,000 more people are coming to the UK than leaving, 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.
“Previously we had seen a decline in the number of EU citizens coming who were looking for work, however this seems to have stabilised.”
The British Takeaway Campaign, an umbrella group representing those involved in the supply and preparation of the nation’s favourite foods, today (Thursday) commented on the Quarterly Migration Report, which shows a fall in EU net migration.
Responding to the latest migration figures, Ibrahim Dogus, Chair of the British Takeaway Campaign, said:
“Today’s statistics, showing a further drop in EU net migration, reinforce what we are seeing across the UK takeaway sector – that takeaway restaurants are struggling to recruit the skills they need to support their business.
“With over a third of takeaway restaurants experiencing skills shortages, particularly for chefs in specialist cuisines, and more than a third saying Brexit will make it more difficult to recruit staff, it’s vital that the immigration system enables the sector to access the skills it needs from both inside and outside the EU.
“That’s why the Government’s post-Brexit immigration white paper should outline a long-term immigration system that does not discriminate between EU and non-EU migrants, and instead prioritises areas of skills shortage – helping to support thousands of takeaway restaurants. We are also urging the Migration Advisory Committee to use its review of the Shortage Occupation List to address the absurd anomaly which allows for the recruitment of specialist chefs for restaurants, but, bizarrely, not for those working in takeaways. This action needs to go hand in hand with investment in high-quality vocational training in order to build a pipeline of home grown talent, which it is why it is critical the new Catering and Hospitality Technical Level is designed in collaboration with industry.”
Among the measures the BTC is calling for are:
- An immigration system that does not discriminate between EU and non-EU migrants.
- A fairer immigration system based not on country of origin or skill level, but upon areas of skills shortage.
- An amendment of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), a list of occupations for which there are not enough British workers to fill vacancies, to make it fairer and more functional.