Personal Immigration

Theresa May’s final immigration stats as PM miss target once more

The final immigration figures to be released under Theresa May’s premiership show that the government has missed its target of reducing net immigration for the 37th time in a row despite EU long-term immigration falling to its lowest level since 2013.

The figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that 258,000 more people came to live in the UK in 2018 than left. A total of 602,000 people moved to the UK last year with 343,000 emigrating.

EU long-term immigrants accounted for 201,000 people arriving with 127,000 leaving. Net migration from central and eastern EU countries including Poland and Hungary fell to a figure of negative 10,000. The largest decrease was for Polish nationals with a decline of 116,000.

The release of the figures renewed calls for the government to ditch its controversial objective of reducing net immigration to under 100,000 a year. The target was announced by David Cameron in 2010 and renewed in the Conservative manifesto ahead of the last two general elections. Theresa May’s announcement that she will stand down as PM has been seen as a fresh opportunity for the Conservative Party to change its stance.

The growth in net immigration remains driven by non-EU migration. The ONS points out that there was a “statistically significant” increase in net migration from countries in central Asia and the Middle East.

Those numbers have been seen as a rejection of the pro-Brexit notion that the UK will take back control of its borders once it finally leaves the EU as the UK is already able to control the numbers of people arriving from outside of the European Union.

Certainly the figures demonstrate that the UK has become a much less attractive place to European migrants with the lower value of the pound and continued uncertainty around Brexit impacting on EU nationals choosing the UK as a place to live and work. Leaving the EU may allow Britain greater control of who it lets in – with migrants selected by skill level – but with the UK less appealing to skilled EU migrants, attracting the doctors and nurses needed to fill NHS vacancies will continue to be a challenge.

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