Record net arrivals highlight post-Brexit immigration dilemma

  • Non-EU workers, Ukraine/Hong Kong visa plans drive rise
  • Prime Minister Sunak: The numbers are too high and need to be reduced
  • Difficult to reduce arrivals during severe labor shortage
  • Statistics office says immigration inflows are showing signs of slowing

LONDON, May 25 (Reuters) – Net immigration to Britain hit a record 606,000 last year, data showed on Thursday, and Prime Minister Rishi Suakh has announced new cuts to immigration. He pulled out a promise, but highlighted the difficulty of doing so under dire circumstances. Labor shortage.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the increase is due to people coming to the UK from outside the European Union to work or study, as well as people from Ukraine and Hong Kong under special visa schemes.

“The numbers are too high, but it’s a no-brainer,” Sunak told broadcaster ITV after the data was released.

He said the goal was to reduce net immigration, noting that: reform It was announced this week that some international students would be stripped of their right to bring their families to the UK.

Sunak promised more steps, but gave no specific target for net immigration.

High levels of legal immigration have long dominated the political debate in the UK, and the issue was a major driver of the 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union.

For more than a decade, successive Conservative-led governments have promised to cut immigration, once targeting a net population of less than 100,000.

However, ONS data released on Thursday showed a net 606,000 visitors to the UK in the year to December 2022.

But the ONS said there was evidence of a slowdown in migration rates in recent months.

Previous data covering the year ending June 2022 had a net figure of 504,000, but the latest release also revised it up to 606,000.

Regain control after Brexit?

A post-Brexit immigration policy has proven to be a difficult balance for Mr. Sunak ahead of next year’s elections, which for many will likely have an impact.

Meanwhile, he is under pressure from some voters, especially those loyal to his party, to curb immigration, a leftover from the 2016 Brexit referendum. Many who voted to leave cited the high levels of immigration and the pressure it puts on public services.

On the other hand, the UK is facing labor shortages in key sectors, partly due to the exodus of EU citizens due to Brexit itself. Tight labor market conditions have contributed to the country’s persistently high inflation.

On the same day, the government announced tougher rules for students’ families, also stating: relax Visa provisions for fishermen due to labor shortage.

The opposition Labor Party said separate government data released on Thursday showed the number of work visas issued had increased by 119% (about 300,000 in the year to March 2023), suggesting that government policies were in place. He said it was evidence of confusion.

Labor’s head of immigration policy Yvette Cooper said: “Ministers have failed utterly to address skills shortages, particularly in the areas of health and social security, and to get people back to work after Covid-19. there are,” he said.

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

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

Data show that overall immigration in 2022 will be about 1.16 million, offset by 557,000 immigrants. According to the ONS, 925,000 of those arriving in 2022 will be non-EU citizens, 151,000 will be EU nationals and 88,000 will be UK nationals.

The report estimated 114,000 long-term visitors from Ukraine and 52,000 from Hong Kong in 2022 under the special visa scheme.

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

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Sachin Ravikumar

thomson Reuters

Sachin Ravikumar is a Reuters correspondent in London covering general news across the UK. During his nine years at Reuters, he helped run various breaking news teams, reported Indian business and general news, and worked as a desk editor.

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