Net migration to UK plunges as policy bites

Ben Southwood
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THE COALITION’S plan to clamp down on migration to the UK appeared to be bearing fruit during 2012, according to figures out yesterday.

Net migration into the UK plummeted 84,000 between the year to June 2011 and the same period a year later, the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed, bringing it to 163,000, closing in on the government’s goal of less than 100,000. Excluding December 2008, the height of the recession, this is the lowest net migration figure since 2003.

And this fall came almost entirely from falling inward migration, which dived 74,000 from 589,000 to 515,000 – with only 10,000 of the total fall coming from emigration, which edged down to 342,000.

London businesspeople said this was a worrying move, and could have a negative impact on the city’s economy. “London is a global city which relies on being able to attract the best global talent in order to compete on the world stage,” said Colin Stanbridge of the London Chamber of Commerce.

“In order to maintain our position we need to have a migration system that is flexible enough for business to recruit the type of talent they need to grow and drive economic recovery.”

The decline was mainly driven by falling arrivals from the so-called New Commonwealth of countries that were decolonised after the Second World War, the ONS said, as well as reduced immigration from countries that recently joined the EU.

And the decline looked to be continuing through the rest of 2012, according to one yardstick. Excluding tourist and transit visas, authorities issued 507,701 visas in the year ending December 2012, the ONS said, the lowest 12-monthly total recorded since the series began in 2005.

Student visas collapsed 20 per cent between 2011 and 2012, as the government clamped down on institutions that educate foreign students.