Since the referendum in 2016, when Britain voted by 52% to 48% to leave, there has been a decline in EU immigration.
Net migration to Britain from the EU has fallen to its lowest level for 16 years – and is being blamed on fewer people travelling to the UK for work ahead of Brexit, according to official data.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Thursday that the difference between how many people came to the UK from the bloc – and how many left – has plunged to 48,000.
It was only lower in 2003 when it was estimated to be 15,000 – when fewer countries were members of the European Union.
However in 2004, there was a surge to 84,000 when 10 countries joined the bloc – including Poland, the Czech Republic and Cyprus – before other jumps in 2007 and 2013 when the EU expanded even further.
Overall around 212,000 more people moved to Britain in the last year than left.
In a statement, the ONS said: “While there are still more EU citizens moving to the UK than leaving, EU net migration has fallen since 2016, driven by fewer EU arrivals for work.
“In contrast, non-EU net migration has gradually increased for the past six years, largely as more non-EU citizens came to study.”
Immigration experts said net migration had “fallen dramatically” since before the referendum – and claimed possible reasons could include the lower value of the pound making the UK less attractive, improving economic prospects in some countries of origin – and potential political uncertainty of the prolonged Brexit process.
Net migration of non-EU citizens has continued to steadily rise since 2013 and now stands at 229,000.
The figures are classed as experimental estimates after the ONS admitted earlier this year that it had been underestimating some data since 2016.
Sophie Wingfield, head of policy and public affairs at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said the figures showed “worrying trends in migration for work continuing”.
She said: “Our data has consistently shown a serious shortage of UK workers in many sectors, ranging from healthcare and engineering to hospitality and agriculture, and this has been getting worse since 2013.
“Meanwhile, the UK is becoming a less attractive destination for workers from overseas.
“Employers and recruiters need to be able to attract migrant workers to fill these vital roles. It is essential that we build a post-Brexit immigration system which is evidence-based and works for business, workers and the economy.”