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Britain sees drop in net migration from EU

Timothy Jones with dpa
February 22, 2018

The number of EU citizens leaving Britain has reached its highest level in a decade, while fewer are arriving. It is unclear if concerns surrounding Brexit are a major factor in people's decision to leave.

Großbritannien Grenzkontrolle
Image: picture-alliance/empics/S. Parsons

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Estimated net migration from the European Union to Britain fell below 100,000 for the first time in five years from September 2016 to September 2017, figures from the British Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed on Thursday.

Some 220,000 EU citizens arrived in Britain in this time period, which is down 47,000 from the previous 12 months, while 130,000 left the country — the highest rate since 2008.

The resulting net figure of 90,000 is approximately the same level as in 2012.

"Looking at the underlying numbers, we can see that EU net migration has fallen as fewer EU citizens are arriving, especially those coming to look for work in the UK, and the number leaving has risen," said Nicola White, the ONS's head of international migration statistics.

Agricultural workers from eastern Europe
Many farmers in Britain are concerned about an expected lack of seasonal workers from the EUImage: Imago/i Images/A. Parsons

UK population still growing through migration

Total net migration from all sources was estimated at 244,000. Although that is down 27,000 from the previous 12 months, it is still well above the figure of less than 100,000 pledged by British Prime Minister Theresa May.

According to the ONS, a peak in net migration over the past decade was reached in 2015 (336,000), while in 2012, that figure lay at 154,000.

White said the decrease in net migration from the EU could reflect concerns surrounding Britain's impending exit from the bloc but said the figures needed to be treated with caution.

"Brexit could well be a factor in people's decision to move to or from the UK, but people's decision to migrate is complicated and can be influenced by lots of different reasons," she said.

Many EU nationals already living in the UK are concerned that their citizens' rights will be curtailed when Britain leaves at the end of March 2019.

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