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EU immigration to UK falls to five-year low

Staff Writer |
The number of European Union immigrants coming to Britain fell to a five-year low last year, as fewer people arrived without a firm job offer during the first full calendar year since June 2016's Brexit vote, official data showed on Monday.

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Concern about high rates of immigration was a major reason why Britons voted to leave the EU, and Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to end unrestricted free movement of EU citizens to Britain after the country leaves the bloc in March 2019.

Businesses, however, want easy immigration rules to help fill job vacancies at a time of low unemployment, and almost all economists say Britain benefits financially from immigration.

Monday's data showed that overall net long-term immigration of people of all nationalities to Britain rose to 282,000 in 2017 from 249,000 in 2016, though this is well below the record of 332,000 recorded in 2015.

But net immigration of EU citizens dropped to 101,000 last year from 133,000 in 2016, and was almost half the number who moved to Britain in the 12 months running up to the Brexit vote, Britain's Office for National Statistics said.

"The estimated number of EU citizens coming to the UK 'looking for work' continued to decrease over the last year and the number coming to the UK for a definite job has remained stable," the statistics agency said.

Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford University's Migration Observatory, said the fall probably reflected lower unemployment in the EU and the weaker pound, as well as Brexit concerns.

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