Net migration to the UK reached 672,000 people, new figures have revealed, as prime minister Rishi Sunak is set for a showdown over its Rwanda policy.
More than one million people arrived in the UK over the past year, as the government continues to face political pressure to reduce numbers of arrivals.
Increasing non-EU migration was driven by migrants coming to the UK to work, which increased from 23 per cent in June 2022 to 33 per cent in June 2023, largely for those on health and care visas.
Jobbatical CEO Karoli Hindriks said firms would “be thankful to see an increase in working visas” and stressed how much UK businesses “rely on the skills of overseas workers to fill the drastic skills gap”.
She also warned “highly skilled professionals are leaving the UK for more attractive climes… talent shortages are a global and industry-wide problem.
“Government should instead be working with businesses to attract and retain the very best talent – no matter where the talent was born.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “These figures are really encouraging and show that tourism is making a strong, albeit delayed, recovery from the pandemic.
“However, it is worrying that we still remain almost 10 per cent behind pre-pandemic levels.”
She urged government to reduce VAT on hospitality, leisure and tourism as “the single biggest measure the government can introduce to boost the sector”.
Workers from outside the EU bringing dependants to Britain with them also increased from 37 per cent in 2022 to 48 per cent in 2023. But the government is reportedly looking at plans to limit it to one relative.
Latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed net migration was a provisional 672,000 in the year to June 2023 – up on the previous year’s record high of 607,000.
But the total was below a newly revised figure of 745,000 in the year to December 2022, the ONS said.
Net migration accounts for the number of people coming to the UK, minus those who leave. 1.2m people arrived in the UK over the data period, while 508,000 left the country.
The ONS release said: “This means that over the past two years net migration has been at the highest level we have seen.
“While it is too early to say if this is the start of a new downward trend, these more recent estimates indicate a slowing of immigration coupled with increasing emigration.”
They also linked the trend to “the introduction of the new immigration system in January 2021” and said the demographic differences were “entirely driven by the change in net migration of non-EU nationals”.
It comes as ministers prepare to bring emergency legislation before Parliament in a bid to designate Rwanda a safe country, after a Supreme Court slapdown of the deportation policy.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set for a battle with both right-wing Conservative MPs and the judiciary over the scheme, which was first proposed by Boris Johnson’s government.
He made stopping the arrival of asylum seekers via small boats crossing the Channel – or ‘stop the boats’ – one of his five pledges in January this year.
The 2019 Conservative manifesto also promised voters that the “overall numbers will come down” on legal migration, and the issue has been a long-standing debate within the Tories.
Karl Williams, from the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, said the scale of migration was “shocking but unsurprising”.
He added: “We can now see that net migration in 2022 equated to UK population growth of more than one per cent.”