Immigration from Bulgaria and Romania rises to highest level on record following Brexit referendum

The Office for National Statistics said the change was statistically significant

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Thursday 23 February 2017 10:32 GMT

Immigration from Romania and Bulgaria to the UK has risen to the highest level on record in the months following the Brexit referendum result, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Inward migration from the the so-called “EU2” countries was up 19,000 to 74,000, which the ONS described as the “highest estimate recorded”.

The period measured by the statistics includes three months of data following the European Union referendum, though the ONS warned it was “too early to say” what the effect of the EU referendum would be on immigration.

Net migration overall was slightly down but broadly flat in the figures at 273,000 a year, down 49,000. The ONS said this change was “not statistically significant”.

The Government says it wants net immigration to fall below 100,000, meaning the level is well over twice its target.

The rise in immigration from Bulgaria and Romania was partially offset by a fall in the number of migrants from the “Ascension 8” countries like Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania – a small fall of 10,000. Immigration from the rest of the EU was broadly flat.

As a net figure, 65,000 EU citizens came to the UK, 164,000 non-EU citizens came to the UK, and 56,000 British citizens left.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said earlier this week that the UK would still be open to migrants after Brexit, though Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said during the EU referendum campaign that the only way to control immigration was by voting Leave.

The Government’s Brexit white paper, published at the start of this month, said that any new immigration controls introduced after Brexit could be “phased in” – suggesting free movement set to last for years after Article 50 is triggered.

An ONS statistician said in a statement: “Although net migration in the year to September 2016 has not seen a statistically significant change, we have seen a statistically significant decrease in net migration among EU8 citizens and non-EU citizens from Africa, the Americas and Oceania.

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“This is the first release to contain long-term international migration estimates including three months of data following the EU referendum.

“Although we have seen a fall in net migration of EU8 citizens there have been continued increases in immigration from Romania and Bulgaria, so it is too early to say what effect the referendum result has had on long-term international migration.

“There has been a statistically significant decrease in non-EU long-term students immigrating to the UK, while a small increase was seen in the number of study visas issued. It is too early to tell if this is an indication of a long-term trend.”

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