What do the latest migration figures reveal? – BBC News

 In World

Immigration and border control signs at Edinburgh AirportImage copyright
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There are so many important headlines in the August migration data that it is difficult to know where to begin.

Let’s start with the biggie – is there a Brexit effect that is frightening workers off from the British economy?

Anecdotally, many of us who report on this field have picked up these stories. I spoke to a lot of Eastern European workers around the time of the general election who were rather nervous but somewhat resigned to Brexit. But not many of them suggested to me they were going to get on the first budget flight back home.

But today’s data gives us a really good glimpse into the thousands of individual decisions that ordinary people make about their future.

Net migration – that’s the difference between the number of immigrants coming in for a year or more and the number of people who emigrate – has fallen substantially since the referendum. In March 2016, weeks out from the vote, it stood at almost 330,000.

Today it is 81,000 down at 246,000 people – the lowest it has been for three years.

The estimates from the Office for National Statistics show that two-thirds of this fall in net migration is accounted for by changes in EU migration, and particularly by citizens of Eastern and Central Europe.

In the year to the end of March, fewer EU nationals arrived to live in the UK than in the previous 12 months – and there was an acceleration in the numbers leaving.

  • Net EU migration fell by 51,000

  • ‘EU8’ emigration rose by 17,000

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When you look at the figures for the 10 nations of Eastern and Central Europe, we can see that 62,000 of their citizens said “do widzenia” (“goodbye”) to the UK while 26,000 fewer of them arrived.

When you drill down further, net migration from the A8 nations (Poland and others which joined the EU in 2004) has dropped very sharply. In the year to March 2016, 39,000 more of these citizens arrived than left. In the year to March 2017, that had crashed to just 7,000.

Interestingly, notes Prof Jonathan Portes of King’s College London, these figures show, for the first time, a stabilising of arrivals from the eight Eastern European nations – and that suggests they no longer regard the UK as as attractive as it once was.

“Net migration from the A8 countries, which joined the EU in 2004, is now statistically insignificant for the first time since then,” he says.

“Moreover, figures for National Insurance registrations, which measure new arrivals registering to work, also fell, with the number of EU nationals registering in April to June falling more than 12% on the same period a year earlier.

“These statistics confirm that Brexit is having a significant impact on migration flows, even before we have left the EU or any changes are made to law or policy.”

Falling pound

For its part, the ONS is cautioning that it’s too early to say this is a long-term trend. So are there other factors beyond a suspected Brexit effect?

Since the Brexit referendum, the falls in the pound on currency markets mean that money made in the UK buys less back home.

This is really important for workers who are sending cash back to their families – and a decisive factor in decisions to move all around the world.

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