The number of citizens from member states of the European Union that moved to Britain has dropped dramatically, according to new figures seen by City A.M.
Data from the Migration Observatory, part of the University of Oxford, showed that just under 43,000 EU citizens obtained UK visas for work, study, family or other purposes last year, compared to the up to 430,000 member state nationals who came to Britain each year up to March 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In fact, of all migrants who arrived in Britain, EU nationals accounted for a mere 5 per cent of the total number of visas issued by the Home Office.
“The figures available so far are therefore consistent with the possibility of a large decline in EU immigration,” the researchers found.
The Migration Observatory said the support services sector as well as the hospitality industry were hit hard by the drop in EU arrivals, saying Brexit had “exacerbated” chronic labour shortages across the UK.
Hospitality lost 98,000 EU citizens in jobs in the two years to June of last year, and the support services sector, including cleaning and maintenance, saw a dip of more than 64,000 EU workers.
Nevertheless, the report stressed Brexit is not solely to blame for the high number of vacant jobs in Britain at present, as it singles out a range of other factors, including over 50s retiring early, the pandemic as well as labour shortages internationally.
“While there is some evidence that the end of free movement has contributed to shortages in some areas of the UK labour market, it is by no means the only driver,” explained Chris Forde, a professor at Leeds University and co-author of the report.
“Recruiting difficulties are not unique to the UK and several other countries have experienced high vacancy rates post-pandemic.”Chris Forde, a professor at Leeds University.
The report found hospitality and lower-skilled sectors were worst hit by the end of free movement of EU citizens into the UK.
“While it is clear that ending free movement has made it harder for employers in low-wage industries to recruit staff, changing immigration policy to address shortages brings its own set of challenges,” added fellow reseacher, Madeleine Sumption, who is the director of the MO.
Despite the drop in EU arrivals, Home Office data shows that there has actually been a major jump in migration since pandemic restrictions were lifted, namely 277,069 work-related visas were issued in the year ending March 2022 , 129 per cent increase compared to the same period a year earlier, and a 50 per cent increase on the year ending March 2020.