The latest quarterly figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest a drop in the number of EU nationals migrating to the UK and an increase in the number leaving the UK, following the Brexit vote in June last year.

Net Migration Figures

The ONS estimates that net long-term international migration into the UK for the year ending 30 September 2016 was 273,000. This represents a fall of 49,000 from last year. The figures also show that the number of EU nationals migrating to the UK was 16,000 fewer than in the 12-month period to 30 June 2016. This fall in immigration - coupled with an increase in emigration to 323,000 this year from 297,000 a year ago - has led to the lowest net migration figure since June 2014.

What The Data Tells Us

Whilst the latest immigration figures are still some way off the government's target to reduce net migration to less than 100,000 per year, the fall does represent a reverse in the recent trend for rising net migration. This is particularly significant as the figures represent the first full quarter since the Brexit vote last year and are perhaps an indicator of things to come.

The figures appear to suggest that the largest fall of EU nationals migrating to the UK was amongst the so-called 'EU8', which are the countries including Poland and Hungary that joined the EU in 2004. The ONS also report a statistically significant increase in emigration of 12,000 to 39,000 by EU8 nationals. A fall in the number of people coming to the UK looking for work down 16,000 to 104,000 was also reported.

Although the ONS are careful to point out the weaknesses in their methods and that many of these changes are not statistically significant, they certainly suggest that Brexit might be making the UK a less attractive place for EU nationals, in terms of employment opportunities and longer-term financial stability.

Best Practice

Given the ongoing debate surrounding the terms of Brexit, there is clearly a great deal of uncertainty around the longer-term impact and what part EU nationals might play in the future of the UK. In light of this, employers would be well advised to consider whether there are any steps they can take to reassure or assist employees from other EU countries on how they might secure their future in the UK.