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Record net inflows highlight UK post-Brexit migration dilemma

Record net inflows highlight UK post-Brexit migration dilemma


Rise by non-EU workers, Ukraine/Hong Kong visa schemes PM Sunak: The numbers are too high and need to be brought down.

LONDON, May 25 (Reuters) – Net immigration to the UK reached a record high of 606,000 last year, data showed on Thursday, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak making new promises to cut back arrivals, but at an urgent time to do so. emphasized the difficulty of labor shortage.

The UK National Statistical Office (ONS) said the increase was driven by people coming to the UK to work or study from outside the European Union (EU), as well as people coming from Ukraine and Hong Kong under special visa regimes.

“The numbers are too high. It’s simple,” Sunak told broadcaster ITV after the data was released.

He said he wanted to reduce net immigration, pointing to reforms announced this week that would remove the right of some international students to bring family members to the UK.

Sunak also promised more action, but did not set a specific target for net migration.

High levels of legal immigration have long dominated the British political discourse and the issue was a major impetus for the 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union.

For over a decade, the Conservative-led government has promised to reduce immigration.

But ONS data released on Thursday showed a net 606,000 people came to the UK in the year ending December 2022.

ONS said there was evidence, however, that immigration rates had slowed in recent months.

Previous data covering the year ending June 2022 showed a net figure of 504,000, which was revised up to 606,000 in the latest release.

Will you take back control after BREXIT?

Post-Brexit immigration policy is proving a difficult balancing act for Sunak ahead of next year’s presidential election, which is expected to affect many people.

On the one hand, he faces pressure to curb migration from some voters, especially those loyal to his party. Many of those who voted to leave cited high immigration and the pressure it puts on public services.

The UK, on ​​the other hand, is facing labor shortages in key sectors, partly due to the exodus of EU citizens caused by Brexit itself. Tight labor market conditions are a factor in the country’s consistently high inflation.

On the same day, the government announced tightening rules for family members of students, while also relaxing visa rules for fisheries due to labor shortages.

The opposition Labor Party said a 119 per cent increase in the number of work visas issued through March 2023 (to about 300,000 by March 2023) was evidence of government policy disarray, in separate government data released Thursday.

“Ministers have completely failed to address skills shortages or get people back to work post-COVID-19, particularly in the areas of health and social services,” said Yvette Cooper, Director of Labor and Immigration Policy.

Immigration Minister Robert Genrick said the new measures, combined with temporary easing of inflows from Ukraine and Hong Kong, would reduce net immigration and return to pre-pandemic levels.

He added that being outside the EU means better control over immigration. In 2015, a year before the Brexit referendum, net immigration to the UK was 329,000.

Data show that total immigration in 2022 is about 1.16 million, offset by 557,000 immigration. ONS said of those arriving in 2022, 925,000 are non-EU nationals, 151,000 are from the EU and 88,000 are British citizens.

It is estimated that 114,000 people from Ukraine and 52,000 from Hong Kong will make long-term entry in 2022 under the special visa regime.

Reported by Sachin Ravikumar and Muvija M, Edited by William James

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principle.

Sachin Ravikumar

Thomson Reuters

Sachin Ravikumar is a Reuters correspondent in London covering general news across the UK. For over nine years at Reuters, he helped run various breaking news teams, covered business and general news from India, and served as desk editor.




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