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Non-EU net migration up while EU figure continues to fall

By Hayden Smith, Press Association Home Affairs Correspondent

Net migration to the UK from outside the European Union has hit its highest level in 14 years - but the figure from within the EU continues to show a post-Brexit vote fall.

Nearly a quarter of a million more non-EU nationals arrived to live in the UK than left in the year to June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The number is the highest since 2004 after a "statistically significant" year-on-year increase.

In contrast, EU net migration is tracking in the opposite direction amid claims of a "Brexodus".

An estimated 74,000 more EU nationals came to the UK than left, the lowest figure since 2012.

The inflow from the EU, 219,000, was the lowest since 2014. Emigration of EU migrants from the UK increased by 18% year-on-year to 145,000.

Overall, net long-term international migration - the difference between the numbers arriving and leaving for at least 12 months - was 273,000.

This is down from record levels of around a third of a million two years ago, but still almost three times the Government's target of less than 100,000.

Jay Lindop, director of the ONS's centre for international migration, said: "Net migration continues to add to the population and has remained fairly stable since its peak in 2016.

"However, there are different patterns for EU and non-EU migration."

For the second consecutive quarter, the figures showed more citizens of eight eastern European countries departed the UK than immigrated.

Net migration from the so-called EU8 nations which joined the bloc in 2004, including Poland and the Czech Republic, was minus 14,000.

The ONS report said: "This has been driven by a decrease in EU8 immigration, particularly for work, and an increase in emigration over the last two years."

Nationals of 14 longer-term EU member states, such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain, continue to add to the UK population with net migration of 47,000.

An estimated 34,000 more Romanians and Bulgarians arrived than left, although this figure has almost halved since the Brexit vote in 2016.

Net non-EU migration was estimated at 248,000 in the 12 months to June, up from 172,000 the previous year.

The ONS said increases in non-EU immigration for work and study have been seen in the most recent year, particularly for Asian citizens.

While the UK remains bound by EU free movement rules, migration from the rest of the world is subject to restrictions.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: "These data reinforce the view that the Government's net migration target is reckless and foolish.

"The target has never once been met and non-EU migration alone far outstrips it."

Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: "The net inflow from the EU is still roughly the size of the British Army, despite cries of alarm from industry over Brexit.

"Meanwhile, non-EU net migration at 248,000 is an astonishing number.

"It is the highest for 14 years and the result of the Government's failure to take effective action to reduce it over recent years."

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: "EU migrants have been leaving in larger numbers since the referendum, and net inflows have greatly decreased.

"The lower value of the pound is likely to have made the UK a less attractive place to live and work and economic conditions in several of the top countries of origin for EU migrants have improved."

Matthew Fell, chief policy director at business organisation the CBI, said: "These latest statistics highlight the continuing trend of falling net EU migration amid growing shortages across all skills levels in the UK."

The figures come as the Government prepares to publish its much-delayed proposals for the post-Brexit immigration system.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said: "These figures clearly show that the UK is attracting and retaining highly skilled workers, including doctors and nurses, and the brightest international students who bring significant benefits to our economy and universities.

"However, we are committed to controlled and sustainable migration and I am pleased that net migration has fallen from its peak levels.

"As we leave the EU we will put in place an immigration system which works in the best interests of the whole of the UK and further detail on that will be set out very soon."

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