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The great slowdown in EU migration

30 Nov 2017

New net migration statistics, released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a sharp slowdown in net migration from Europe but this does not yet amount to a “Brexodus,” the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said today.

The data show that total net migration to the UK in the year ending June 2017 – the first full year since the UK’s vote to leave the EU – stood at  230,000, are more than double the government’s ‘tens of thousands’ net migration target, but around 100,000 lower than the mid-2016 peak of 336,000. Of this, 173,000 was net migration from outside the EU, and 107,000 was net migration of EU citizens.

The declines have been driven by a sharp fall in net migration from both the “A8” and EU 15 – which together fell by 63,000 in the year to June 2017.

The fall in EU net migration was driven by both falling immigration and rising emigration from these countries. Overall emigration from EU countries stood at 123,000, slightly below the previous high of 134,000 during the financial crisis of 2008.

Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “It is unclear whether this decline is purely due to Brexit or would have happened anyway. The data don’t tell us this for certain, but the referendum has certainly created a set of circumstances – such as a fall in the value of the pound, and increased uncertainty about future status – that could make the UK less attractive.”

These data are fully consistent with recently reported statistics showing a record number of EU citizens working in the UK. Net migration from EU countries is still positive, which means that the population of EU citizens living in the UK is still increasing.

Sumption added: “Emigration is up but it’s not exactly a ‘Brexodus’ at this point – the vast majority of EU citizens are not leaving. This is not surprising since most have been in the UK for several years and have put down roots here. Despite the slowdown, there are also more EU citizens arriving than leaving, so the EU population in the UK is still growing – it’s just growing more slowly than in the recent past. In other words, developments in the past year may have slammed the brakes on EU net migration but have not put it into reverse.”

A broadly similar trend emerges from NHS workforce data released earlier this year, showing that previous years of rapid growth in the health service’s EU staff numbers has come to an end. The number of EU nurses and health visitors, in particular, fell by 1% from June 2016 to June 2017, after four years of double-digit growth. However, this trend may result more from increased language requirements than the Brexit vote.


For further information contact:

Rob McNeil, Head of Media and Communications, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

Tel: 01865 274568;
Mob: 07500 970081

Notes for editors:

About the Migration Observatory

  • Based at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford, the Migration Observatory provides independent, authoritative, evidence-based analysis of data on migration and migrants in the UK, to inform media, public and policy debates, and to generate high quality research on international migration and public policy issues. The Observatory’s analysis involves experts from a wide range of disciplines and departments at the University of Oxford.
  • The Migration Observatory is funded by: the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy, and has also received support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
  • The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford conducts high quality research in order to develop theory and knowledge, inform policy-making and public debate, and engage users of research within the field of migration. For further details see the COMPAS website:

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