EMIGRATION from the UK plummeted in 2009, according to government figures released yesterday.
And more pressure was piled on the Conservative pledge to cap net migration after it increased to 198,000 – but only because of the drop in people leaving.
Immigration actually fell by 23,000. The number of UK citizens leaving the country decreased to 140,000, a ten year low—and a 19 per cent fall on the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
And the overall number of people emigrating (including foreigners) also fell sharply, by 59,000.
The Conservatives went into the last election with a key promise to reduce net migration to below six figures. The policy has come under fire from business groups, such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and British Chamber of Commerce (BCC).
David Frost of the BCC said last week: “The Prime Minister has said Britain is ‘open for business’. Our migration policies must reflect that sentiment.”
John Philpott, an economist at the CIPD said that a cap on the supply of labour will create unmet demand. “That means either vacancies are unfilled, or that employers compete for staff, driving up wages,” he argued.
Earlier in the year business secretary Vince Cable clashed with Conservative minister Damian Green who claimed that net migration figures “show why we must tighten our immigration system”.
Cable disputed the claim, telling the Financial Times that “the increase in recorded immigration has nothing to do with the number of non-EU work permits issued: they actually declined.”
Yesterday’s data showed non-EU immigration almost unchanged from that seen in 2008.
The Conservatives have pledged to make the law business friendly by exempting inter-company transfers, allowing multinational companies to bring in staff from their branches outside the EU.