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UK net migration unlikely to fall below pre-Brexit figures, say experts

16 Oct 2023 3 minute read
A UK Border sign. Photo Peter Powell/PA Wire

Net migration to the UK is unlikely to drop below pre-Brexit levels by the end of the decade, remaining at around 250,000 to 350,000 a year, according to an expert forecast.

But figures are likely to fall sharply from the current record high over the coming years, according to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford and the London School of Economics (LSE).

The war in Ukraine and people arriving to the UK from Hong Kong under resettlement schemes are said to have contributed to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate, which put net migration at 606,000 people last year.

But the figures prompted unease among some Cabinet ministers and Tory MPs, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling the figure “too high” earlier this year.

The latest forecast, based on certain assumptions about migration trends as well as ONS and Home Office data, suggests that current high levels of immigration over the last two years may lead to higher emigration between 2023 and 2025.

That would largely be driven by international students, while smaller numbers of people coming from Ukraine and Hong Kong is also likely to have an impact.

Realistic scenarios

Professor of economics at LSE Alan Manning, who co-authored the new report, said: “Nobody can predict exactly what will happen to net migration, but we can set out some realistic scenarios. And most plausible scenarios involve net migration falling in the coming years.

“But many different factors affect the outlook, including what share of international students switch to long-term work visas, whether work visa numbers continue to increase as sharply as they have done in the past few years, and what happens to asylum applications.

“The unpredictability means it’s very hard for policymakers to guarantee that they will deliver a specific level of net migration.”

The study finds that, largely due to a significant increase in work visas, predictions of lower net migration levels following Brexit are unlikely to happen.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory, said that health and care visas were helping to keep the figures high.

“One of the striking findings is that if current trends continue, work visas look set to be the largest factor shaping overall net migration by some distance. Work-related migration has mostly been driven by health and care.

“So future migration patterns will be particularly sensitive to developments in that sector,” she said.

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Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
7 months ago

So what so of figure is acceptable? We’ve always had and always will have immigration, it’s impossible to bring it down to zero and compared to other countries ours is relatively small. Its also time we valued immigration and saw it as a benefit to the country instead of demonising it.

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