Responding to the latest immigration figures, which showed that immigration from the EU was 268,000 in the year to September 2016, compared with 256,000 the year before, but with signs it slowed in the third quarter, Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills at the Institute of Directors, said:
“These figures provide the first signs of the effect on immigration since Britain voted for Brexit last summer. They are an early indication that the level of EU migration has peaked, but they also underline that it is unlikely there will be steep falls in immigration before Britain actually leaves the EU.
“Signs that EU nationals are starting to leave because of the climate of uncertainty are worrying for employers and businesses. Free movement across the EU was clearly a major factor behind the Brexit vote, and businesses are well aware that changes to the immigration system are coming. However, if in the long-term this means a reduction in the number of skilled immigrants and the range of candidates available to growing businesses, the country as a whole will suffer.
“With the UK at full employment, and companies in many sectors finding it hard to recruit people with the right skills, a sensible immigration system will be key to the UK’s future success. The trade deals with countries outside the EU that we look forward to signing once the UK leaves will be dependent on labour mobility. We can’t fulfil the positive vision of an open outward-looking country post-Brexit if we close the door to international talent and make it harder to trade in services.”