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Immigration hit record high before Brexit vote

The most commonly stated reason for immigration to the UK was work

A record 284,000 EU citizens immigrated to the UK in the year ending June 2016, the highest estimate recorded, according to statistics released by the ONS.

The most commonly stated reason for immigration to the UK was work, cited by 48% of immigrants from both EU and non-EU countries. One in six (59%) had a definite job to go to, while 130,000 arrived looking for work.

The analysts found there have been increases for all nationality groupings in the employed UK labour force in July to September 2016, compared with the same quarter for the previous year, with 10.9% more EU immigrants and a 1.6% increase in non-EU immigrants in employment.

However Gerwyn Davies, labour market adviser at the CIPD, said that the migration tide could have changed in the months since June's EU referendum. “The feedback from CIPD members suggests that the currency depreciation, among other factors, is already undermining the attractiveness of the UK to live and work,” he said.

"There is a strong likelihood that the recruitment and retention challenges of employers will be exacerbated further when EU migration restrictions are introduced, which will affect low-skilled employers especially. Employers therefore need to urgently explore all recruitment channels and look at under-utilised groups of the labour market, starting with young people and students, to offset the risk of looming labour shortages.”

Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK, a firm specialising in immigration law, called it a “worrying time” for employers.

“Many UK-based organisations and EU individuals already working here are sharing their concerns with us over future immigration policy and we’re continuing to see an increase in EU citizens and UK organisations seeking Permanent Residence and British Nationality status for themselves and their employees,” he said.

“With UK immigration laws on EU nationals living in the UK set to change should Article 50 be triggered by March next year, it is a worrying time for many, especially in industries like engineering, IT, construction, hospitality, which rely heavily on skills from outside the UK which may decline or relocate if workable solutions are not introduced.”

Data released for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) entry clearance applications reveals that 49% of entrepreneur visa applications are being refused. Sophie Barrett-Brown, head of the UK practice at Laura Devine Solicitors, warned of the damage this could potentially cause for the UK in a post-Brexit future.

“Figures showing the UK refusing half of all entrepreneur visa applications are particularly concerning at a time when the UK needs to be demonstrating as a nation that it is ‘open for business’ and actively engaging with the world beyond the EU,” she said. “We are slamming the door in the faces of precisely the kind of global, entrepreneurial spirits we need for the UK to thrive in a post-Brexit world.

“It may be more difficult to make global trading partnerships with countries whose entrepreneurs are being snubbed after choosing the UK as the location to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into economy-boosting success stories.”