Long-term migration from the EU has fallen to its lowest level in more than five years in the run-up to Brexit, new figures have revealed.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday showed that while 226,000 EU citizens arrived in the UK in the year leading up to March 2018, 138,000 decided to leave.
The addition of 87,000 EU citizens to the UK population is the lowest level of net EU migration since 2012, statisticians said. It is a drop of more than 100,000 from its 2016 peak of 189,000.
“Much of the recent fall is in people from the western European countries that make up the ‘EU15’ group coming to the UK for a definite job,” said Nicola Rogers, who works for the ONS’ Centre for Migration.
“Previously we had seen a decline in the number of EU citizens coming who were looking for work, however, this seems to have stabilised.”
Anti-Brexit groups have shared concerns that the figures prove that “Brexodus” - a mass exit of EU workers from the UK - is underway.
Overall, long-term net migration continued to add to the UK population, with 270,000 more people coming to the country than departing.
Researchers found that migration from non-EU countries – which sat at 235,000 in the year following August 2017 – had increased to levels last seen in 2011.
Commenting on the new migration statistics, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said: “These statistics make clear that we are continuing to increase our appeal to world class talent to our universities and economy.
“At the same time, the figures show that net migration has fallen from its peak levels.
“But we know there is more to do if we are to meet our aim of reducing net migration to sustainable levels.
“Leaving the EU will enable us to put in place an immigration system which works for everyone – businesses, communities, families and individuals.
“Securing the rights of EU citizens has always been our priority and the recently announced EU Settlement Scheme, which will make it easy for EU citizens to get the status they need, delivers that commitment.”
In 2017, Theresa May pledged to reduce net migration to the UK to “tens of thousands”, arguing it would be more “sustainable”.
But earlier this week, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox called into question whether the Prime Minister’s aim will be upheld after the UK leaves the European Union.
He said ministers will be “reviewing what we do post-Brexit”, adding that Britain needed to “match our employment opportunities with our migration policy”.
However, Fox added the stringent target is still in place “at the moment”.