Immigration From EU to U.K. Fell as Brexit Approached Climax

(Bloomberg) --

Fewer European Union citizens arrived in Britain in the year through September than at any time since 2012 as the political drama over Brexit reached a climax.

Immigration from other EU countries stood at 196,000, compared with levels around 300,000 before the 2016 referendum that put the U.K. on a path out of the bloc, Office for National Statistics figures published Thursday show.

The number of EU nationals departing Britain also fell, leaving overall net migration from the bloc up slightly compared with the year earlier at 64,000. However, the increase may do little to ease the concerns of businesses from hotels to construction firms that rely on EU workers and are complaining of skill shortages.

The figures cover a period that saw Britain miss an initial Brexit deadline and the resignation of Theresa May as prime minister after she failed to get the divorce deal she negotiated with the EU through the U.K. Parliament. A second Brexit deadline came and went on Oct. 31 but May’s successor, Boris Johnson, won a commanding Conservative majority in the general election a few weeks later that allowed Britain to leave the EU on Jan. 31.

Johnson has said he wants to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system that would restrict flows of unskilled labor.

Net migration from non-EU countries continued to rise as more students came to Britain to study, particularly from India and China, the ONS said. But there was a sharp increase in the number of British nationals leaving the country. Overall net migration fell to 240,000 from 247,000 a year earlier. The figure has remained broadly steady over the past three years.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.