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Immigration to the UK fell by almost 90 per cent in 2020 News

As a result of COVID and Brexit, immigration fell to the lowest level seen in many years, the ONS says.

Net immigration to the UK fell by almost 90 per cent last year, since 1993, under the influence of COVID-19 and Brexit, official figures showed on Thursday.

The Office for National Statistics released its first provisional estimate that 34,000 more people emigrated to the UK last year than they emigrated last year, down from 271,000 in 2019.

“Immigration was much lower in 2020 than in previous years, probably due to the combination of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit,” the ONS said.

Concerns about unrestricted immigration in the European Union — more than 200,000 on a net basis in 2015 — were a key feature of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Recently, companies have complained about job shortages due to lack of immigrants.

The UK left the EU at the end of January 2020 – although EU citizens retained the right to travel to the UK until the end of the year – but COVID stopped foreign travel from the end of March 2020.

The pandemic also hampered the ability of the ONS to collect migration data, as it stopped the traditional practice of surveying passengers at airports and ports.

The provisional data are based on an experimental statistical model and are likely to be revised, with credible estimates for 2020 ranging from 125,000 net immigration to 58,000 net emigration, the ONS said.

Looking at non-British EU citizens alone, there were approximately 94,000 net emigrations, the ONS estimated.

Unlike most European countries, the UK does not have a resident identity card or mandatory registration system that would facilitate verification of migratory flows.

“Although there is no evidence of a UK exodus in 2020, global travel restrictions said people’s movement was limited, with all data sources suggesting that migration had fallen to the lowest level seen in many years,” said ONS Jay Lindop.

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