24 Feb 2017

UK migration: Quo Vadis?

For the first time in 2 years the UK net migration is less than 300 000 announced the Office of National Statistics (ONS). According to the latest numbers from September last year the number was 273 000, with 49, 000 less than the same period last year. The major drops come from people coming from EU countries. As a main reason the ONS points to the results of the referendum last June and states that Brexit was the reason many Eastern Europeans have left the UK.

Nearly 39,000 people from Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania left last year and at same time 10 000 fewer than before have arrived to the country. But this decline only effected people from the countries that joined the EU in 2004. The numbers show that there is a “statistically significant” rise of immigrants from two of the youngest EU member states – Bulgaria and Romania. Around 74,000 people from these countries came to UK last year, which is the highest recorded up to now. That information was welcomed with mixed emotions. Popular for his controversial comments, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage who once predicted that more than 350,000 Bulgarians and Romanians will move to UK, said in his Twitter account: “I apologise for what I said about Romanian and Bulgarian immigration in 2014. The figure is actually much higher.”  More positive about the numbers was Alp Mehmet, Vice-Chairman of Migration Watch UK: “There is still a net inflow from Eastern Europe, especially from Romania and Bulgaria. These workers are generally in low-paid employment so this is where our proposal for work permits confined to those coming for skilled work would have a very useful effect on EU migration”

Similar opinion from the top came from Brexit Secretary David Davis during his visit to Estonia 2 days ago. According to him “years and years” will pass before British workers will be ready to take on low-skill jobs worked mainly by Eastern Europeans and UK can’t simply afford to “suddenly shut the door” to the EU immigrants. Mr.Davis’ response came after a question about his thoughts of Theresa May’s pledge for the net migration to fall under 100 000 people per year.

The withdraw of immigrants won’t affect only the low-skills jobs but other fields as well. Just two days ago, the British Medical Association announced that 4 in 10 European doctors are considering leaving UK in the years to follow Brexit. Another 2 in 10 are unsure of what their futures will be if they stay. “These are the people who staff our hospitals and GP surgeries, look after vulnerable patients in the community and conduct vital medical research to help save lives. Many have dedicated years of service to healthcare in the UK, so it’s extremely concerning that so many are considering leaving,” Dr Mark Porter, chairman of council at the BMA, said.

Still, according to many analysts, it is too early to measure the effect of Brexit on the levels of migrations. One of them is Nicola White, ONS Head of International Migration Statistics. “This is the first release to contain long-term international migration estimates including three months of data following the EU referendum. Although we have seen a fall in net migration of EU8 citizens there have been continued increases in immigration from Romania and Bulgaria, so it is too early to say what effect the referendum result has had on long-term international migration.” she commented.

Current population of UK: 64.1 million
September 2015 – 2016: 268,000 EU citizens immigrated to the UK
September 2015 – 2016: 103,000 emigrated abroad
Current numbers of EU citizens living in UK: 3.2 million
Current numbers of UK citizens living in other EU countries: 1.2 million

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