Infographic: U.K. population shrinks as migrant exodus continues

Infographic: U.K. population shrinks as migrant exodus continues

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A net 94,000 European Union nationals left the country last year, as migration levels plummeted during the epidemic, according to the U.K.

The EU population in Britain has shrank as more Europeans left the country in 2019, and at least 100,000 fewer arrived, according to the Office for National Statistics figures released Thursday.

The figures help explain why companies are struggling to recruit workers, particularly in sectors such as hospitality and retail that relied heavily on foreign staff before the pandemic struck. The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates early next month because of the squeeze, which is driving up pay and inflation.

The ONS said that Covid 19 and Brexit, with the U.K. leaving the EU in January 2020, were responsible for the drop, but it was difficult to disentangle the effects. The restrictions on international travel to fight the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in a drop in net immigration.

A separate and more up-to-date ONS population release for the year to June 2021 suggested that the trend continued early this year. The number of EU citizens living in the U.K. has fallen by 200,000 to 3.4 million by that point.

The drop in EU nationals was offset by movement from other countries. In 2020, an estimated 130,000 more non-EU nationals came to the U.K. than left, but the figure was also much lower than recent years. Net migration fell significantly to just 34,000 from average annual levels of 250,000 over the last decade.

The movement of people was limited as global travel restrictions meant migration fell to the lowest level seen for many years, according to Jay Lindop, Director of the Center for International Migration at the ONS, although there was no evidence of an exodus from the U.K. in 2020.

He said these are the best current estimates for international migration over this period. He said that they were modeled figures based on experimental research and subject to a high level of uncertainty.

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