In 2022, 45,755 migrants made the Channel crossing on small boats and landed on UK soil, the highest number since figures began to be collected in 2018. This is a massive political issue. It drives much of the divisive rhetoric that the Tories stoke about immigration.
However, driving other dynamics in the wider economy is the fact that net migration to the UK hit a record 745,000 last year — 139,000 higher than previously estimated.
And instead of our highly trained neighbours from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland and so on, the really big increases came from non-EU nationals coming for work, the Office for National Statistics stated today.
Whilst the ONS said there were signals that immigration is now beginning to fall — it added that net migration for the 12 months to June this year was 672,000. However, it should be noted that from 2020 to the year end 2023, over two million migrants have entered the UK.
The FT reports that – The sharp rise in immigration since the introduction of post-Brexit visa rules has caused alarm on the right wing of the Conservative party, piling pressure on the new home secretary James Cleverly to take action to cut numbers. The ONS said that there were 1.2mn long-term immigrants during the 12 months to June 2023, of whom almost 1mn were non-EU nationals, while emigration totalled 508,000.
“The rise in immigration has already led to the fastest population growth in England and Wales for more than 60 years”
The ONS said – “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.” However, it also stated that the rise in immigration has already led to the fastest population growth in England and Wales for more than 60 years.
The countries’ population rose 1 per cent from mid-2022, the fastest increase since 1962.
The ONS said the latest increase in non-EU immigration was largely because of migrants coming for work, in particular, in the health and care sectors, with a smaller proportion of people coming for humanitarian reasons. The ONS also stated that 39 per cent of non-EU immigrants, the largest single group, came to the UK to study, the same proportion as the previous year. It added that changes to the system it uses for calculating non-EU nationals contributed to its new estimate of 745,000 net migrants to Britain for the calendar year 2022.
For all of the rhetoric that tapped into the minds of those voting for Brexit, to ‘get it done’ – what the country has seen in reality is a huge increase, the biggest ever recorded in net migration.
Ministers, as ever, are considering ways to cut legal immigration, including by raising salary thresholds for skilled worker visas and limiting the number of dependants care workers can bring. However, businesses are still calling for visa rules to allow them to hire more freely in sectors facing chronic labour shortages.
The reality is that the UK has a shortage of workers, especially since both Brexit and the pandemic, which has held down economic activity – that then boosted inflation, making the cost of living crisis even worse.
In addition, the number of people retiring has reached new all-time records, with one in five UK citizens retired from the workforce by next year – the very people who tend to vote to stop immigration. The largest workforce arriving to the UK is focused on health and elderly care.