Migrants from eight Eastern European countries are increasingly leaving Britain after the Brexit vote but the number arriving from Bulgaria and Romania has jumped, official data released today (23 February) showed.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also showed that in the year ending in September 2016, net migration – the number of people who moved to Britain minus the number who left – was 273,000.
This was the lowest reading since the year ending in June 2014 and the first to include data from the three months following Britain’s EU referendum.
The ONS said the increase in people from eight countries in Eastern Europe – Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – leaving the UK was “statistically significant”.
The number of people from these countries leaving Britain rose by 12,000 to an estimated 39,000. However, there was an increase of 19,000 to 74,000 of the numbers of arrivals of citizens of Bulgaria and Romania, who have only been allowed to come to Britain visa-free since January 2014.
The total number that arrived from other parts of the EU was 268,000 people over the 12-month period, compared to 284,000 in the year to June.
In comparison, Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees registered a total of 846,000 arrivals among EU citizens in 2015. France’s overall net migration stood at 67,000 in 2016, according to the statistics agency INSEE.
“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,” Nicola White said.
The issue of immigration was at the heart of the EU referendum campaign last year in which 52% voted for Britain to leave the European Union.
Since the shock vote, the status of Europeans living in a post-Brexit UK, as well as vice-versa, has been unclear, with Prime Minister Theresa May refusing to guarantee their rights ahead of formal negotiations with Brussels.
May has said their status will be dependent on that of British citizens in other parts of the EU and has promised to make this a “priority” in the talks.
Immigration minister Robert Goodwill said the drop in numbers was “encouraging” but said the government was still aiming for net migration of less than 100,000.
A spokesman for the prime minister welcomed the latest figures, saying: “We will continue reforming migration routes to the UK from outside Europe, and obviously once we have left the European Union we’ll take control of immigration from within the EU as well”.