Number of EU nationals leaving UK at its highest since 2008

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Posted on 23 Feb 2018

The number of EU citizens leaving the UK is at its highest level for a decade, figures from the Office for National Statistics show. It estimates that 130,000 EU nationals emigrated in the year to September, the highest number since 2008. Meanwhile, according to the BBC, 220,000 EU nationals came to live in the UK - 47,000 fewer than the previous year.  

So, why is the number of EU nationals leaving the UK at its highest since 2008?

According to Nicola White, ONS head of migration statistics, “The figures also show that non-EU net migration is now larger than EU net migration, mainly due to the large decrease in EU net migration over the last year. Brexit could well be a factor in people's decision to move to or from the UK, but people's decision to migrate is complicated and can be influenced by lots of different reasons”. 

As Nicola White explained, this decline in numbers is thought largely due to Brexit, resulting in the sentiment that the UK has become significantly less attractive to European migrants. However, the Forbes 12th annual survey of the Best Countries for Business ranked the UK amongst the top 25 countries (out of 153 measured) in each of the 15 metrics tracked. In addition, according to the Mayor of London’s promotional agency, the UK (specifically London), continues to be a major draw for international technology workers, with London remaining the top choice for both European and global tech professionals looking to live and work outside of their own country. This is evidenced by some of the biggest tech companies expanding their presence in the UK. Last year, Amazon revealed it will double its Research and Development Staff in London, and this was followed by Apple revealing it plans to open a new London HQ in 2021, to house up to 1,400 London based staff.

It goes without saying that the coming months (and years) will provide fluctuating numbers in respect of both immigration to and emigration from Britain. 

However, provided the UK continues to promote itself as being an attractive place to do business, we are likely to see continued investment, which should in turn mean that immigration continues, if not from  Europe (which should stabilise once further details of the UK’s departure from the EU have been revealed), then from further afield.

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