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UK immigration nearly triples despite Brexit promises

November 24, 2022

Record numbers of people are moving to the UK even as the pro-Brexit government promises to crack down on immigration. Roughly 50,000 EU citizens left the UK over a one-year period, while 331,000 non-EU citizens arrived.

Migrants outside a bus in Dungeness, England
Statistics released Thursday did not include roughly 35,000 migrants who arrived in the UK illegallyImage: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday said the country had a net migration gain of 504,000 people between June 2021 and June 2022. That number was nearly triple the 173,000 registered the year prior.

The sharp increase comes as British politicians like Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt seek to assure people that it is too early to give up on Brexit, which promised to bring down immigration and "take back control of the UK's borders."  

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, herself a hardline Brexiteer, admitted the government had "failed to control our borders," just before the ONS figures were released. 

The rise was attributed to world events such as the war in Ukraine, Afghan resettlement, an influx of Hong Kongers fleeing Beijing's long arm and students returning as coronavirus travel restrictions ease.

'Unprecedented' events driving non-EU immigration in post-Brexit UK

"A series of world events have impacted international migration patterns in the 12 months to June 2022," said Jay Lindop, director of the Center for International Migration at the ONS. "Taken together these were unprecedented."

ONS data shows that most new arrivals came from non-EU countries. Roughly 89,000 Ukrainians resettled in the UK and another 76,000 came from the former British colony of Hong Kong — for which the UK developed a special visa program in response to heavy handed nationalist policies put in place there by Beijing.

Some 21,000 Afghan refugees were also among the arrivals.

It is estimated that about 51,000 EU citizens left the UK during that same period as a result of Brexit, which promised to drastically reduce immigration.

The ONS statistics do not include roughly 35,000 migrants who arrived in the UK illegally by crossing the English Channel.

The UK has an estimated population of 67 million.

Brexit looking like a long-term drag on the UK's economy

New economic forecasts also spell potential long-term trouble in the UK as a result of Brexit.

The grim news comes on the heels of a leaked government report suggesting that Hunt and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may seek a "Swiss-style" partnership with Brussels.

When Hunt announced an austere new budget last week he claimed it would help the UK "forge a different economy outside the European Union — high skill, high wage, the world's next Silicon Valley, and with our own regulations."

Hunt, who voted against Brexit in 2016, denied having leaked the report but said the UK had to invest in skills if it wanted to tackle immigration.

Brexit: Skills shortage

js/jsi (AFP, dpa)