Be careful what you wish for….

The Government’s promise from 2010 to reduce net migration to the ten’s of thousands has been repeated post Brexit decision. David Cameron said in 2010 that limits on immigration needed to be imposed to ensure public services did not become overwhelmed.

The latest net migration statistics show that in the year ending September 2016, net migration to the UK was estimated at 273,000. This figure is 49,000 down on the figure for the previous 12 months.

It comprises +165,000 EU citizens, +164,000 non-EU citizens and -56,000 British citizens.

These are the first figures since the EU referendum. Although there has been an overall fall in net migration in this period from the citizens of the A8 countries, namely Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland Slovakia, Slovenia, there have been continued increases in immigration from Romania and Bulgaria. The official line is it is too early to say what effect the Referendum result has had on long-term international migration. One possibility is that those who have wanted to come from the A8 states have already arrived over time as those states have been part of the EU since 2004.  In contrast, those from Romania and Bulgaria have had restrictions lifted to come and work in the UK only since January 2014.

We know some EU citizens feel they are no longer welcome because of the Referendum result.  Somebody should do a poll of them to gauge their current thinking.

There has been a statistically significant decrease in non-EU long-term students immigrating to the UK while a small increase was seen in the number of study visas issued. The official line is it is too early to tell if this is an indication of a long-term trend. There was an estimated 41,000 drop in the number of international students coming to study in Britain, to 134,000, the lowest level since 2002. If this trend continues, universities will not have enough funding coming in from outside the UK. And the foreign students of today are tomorrow’s world leaders. If they are spending time in their youth being educated and enjoying and understanding the cultures of other countries, they are likely to lean more towards the people they shared education with in those countries when making decisions about business and politics.

How can a promise be made to make reductions in the figures for net migration when there is no control over the number leaving the UK?  What happens in the real world if and when the net migration figure is down to the tens of thousands? Is it the magic panacea for all our immigration problems? Why stick at tens of thousands? Does somebody get a prize when this figure is achieved? What does it tell us about the government’s attitude to immigration post Brexit?

It is a promise full of dangerous implications for the future good fortunes of the UK. It panders to the right wing press in much the same way as the promise to build a wall between Mexico and the USA panders to the right wing press in the USA.

The acts of politicians today store up benefits and negatives for many years after those politicians have left office and are enjoying their government pension. Look at the actions of Tony Blair’s government and the 2 million people added to the UK population he presided over.

Finally note these net migration figures are estimates. The International Passenger Survey (IPS) collects information about passengers entering and leaving the UK. The IPS selects passengers from all major airports and sea routes, at Eurostar terminals and on Eurotunnel shuttle trains. The IPS says it conducts between 700,000 and 800,000 interviews a year of which over 250,000 are used to produce estimates of Overseas Travel and Tourism.

Tom Redfern