LONDON — Net migration to the UK fell by 84,000 people to 248,000 in 2016, driven by an increase in European citizens leaving the country, the Office for National Statistics said.
In total, immigration was estimated to be 588,000 and emigration 339,000.
“The net migration change was driven by a statistically significant increase in emigration up 40,000 from 2015, mainly EU citizens and a decrease of 43,000 in immigration (not statistically significant),” the ONS said.
Net immigration was just from EU8 countries — a bloc which includes eastern European states such as Poland and Romania — stood at just 5,000 people, which is the lowest figure since the countries joined the European Union in 2004.
Here’s the chart from the ONS:
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party has interpreted the vote to leave the European Union as a reaction against immigration, pledging to reduce net migration to below 100,000 people following the election.
“Tough general election rhetoric on cutting migration is only likely to encourage more of the EU workers British businesses and public services rely upon to choose to cross the channel in search of a more secure future for themselves and their families,” Sophie Barrett-Brown, head of the UK Practice at Laura Devine Solicitors, said in an emailed statement.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry, the UK’s largest business lobby group, expressed concern at the potential for immigration restrictions to hamper access to talented workers from overseas.
“We have a much much higher degree of integration of our businesses within Europe than we do in any other part of the world, and [this is about] the ability to move people around quickly onto a construction project or to make a television programme or to work on a legal project. We are a services based-economy and people are our currency,” Carolyn Fairbairn, Confederation of British Industry’s director general, said earlier this month.