Responding the latest official immigration statistics, showing that immigration has fallen by 50,000, while emigration has risen by 31,000 in the year ending March 2017, Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors, said:
“No one should celebrate these numbers. Given unemployment is currently at its lowest level ever (4.5%), without the 3 million EU citizens living here the UK would have an acute labour shortage. Signs that it is becoming a less attractive place to live and work are a concern.
“Emigration is up 31,000, immigration down 50,000 and more than half of this change can be accounted for by a decrease in net migration of EU citizens. The IoD has been warning for some time that the ongoing uncertainty over the status and rights of EU citizens already living here is leading to a brain drain of EU staff. We hope that an agreement can be reached as soon as possible to provide reassurance to EU workers and enable the Brexit negotiations to progress to the next stage.
“The drop in the number of people coming here to study (down 27,000) should also serve as a warning. Higher education is a key sector of our economy and being open to the best students and workers from around the world is vital for the success of British business. We welcome the Government’s announcement of a consultation to build on the existing evidence highlighting the significant contribution international students make to our country and economy.
“The admission that so few students overstay their visa rubbishes the idea that they should be included in the net migration figures. We hope that this consultation will be the first step in correctly classifying international students as “temporary residents”, as they are in the US, Canada, and Australia.”