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EU residents rush for British citizenship but ever fewer new arrivals from Europe


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EU citizens already living in the UK are opting for British citizenship at record levels even as more depart and fewer arrive, this morning’s quarterly immigration statistics from the Home Office and Office for National Statistics confirm.

The big picture

The number of EU citizens coming to live in the UK continues to fall. The inflow in the year to September 2017 is an estimated 18% lower than the year before.

Emigration of EU citizens is up 27% year on year.

At roughly 90,000 (take the precise numbers with a healthy dose of salt), net migration from the EU — the difference between arrivals and departures — is now back to 2012 levels. The Office for National Statistics says, diplomatically, that

Brexit could well be a factor in people’s decision to move to or from the UK, but people’s decision to migrate is complicated and can be influenced by lots of different reasons.

Meanwhile, non-EU migration — over which the government has no need to “take back control” — has jumped. At an estimated 200,000 net, it alone is double the government’s target.

As a result of the fall in EU numbers but rise in non-EU, overall net migration is stable, running at about a quarter of a million additions a year.

Some further figures of interest:

EU applications

The Home Office will be somewhat to relieved that these continue to fall quarter by quarter — partly, no doubt, because of its insistence that people should wait for “settled status” instead. The number of applications is still well above the pre-Brexit average, though.

Take permanent residence specifically. Over 33,000 permanent residence documents and cards were issued in the final quarter of 2017. It used to run at 4,000-5,000 a quarter.


While applications to become a British citizen are generally falling, applications from EU nationals are rising. They now make up almost one third of the total.

Last year, almost 32,000 former EU nationals became British — easily a new record. That is almost twice as many as in any previous year on record, going back to 1990.

Removals and departures

Enforcement activity, while increasing in severity, is not resulting in more people being removed or voluntarily departing from the UK. Taken together, “returns” of both kinds hit a new record low (the records go back to the first quarter of 2004).

There were 12,300 enforced removals in 2017, compared to 14,400 in 2014 — a fall of 15% in just a few years. Voluntary returns fell 27% in the same period.

Immigration detention

Some good news: the number of people in detention centres is falling. There were 2,545 people in detention at the end of 2017, the lowest number since the same point in 2011. The number of people entering detention of the course of 2017 was the lowest in the past five years.

That included 42 children — compared to well over 1,000 in 2009.


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