Net long-term UK immigration hovers at record levels

AP News
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Posted: Dec 01, 2016 8:18 AM

LONDON (AP) — The number of people migrating to the United Kingdom remains at record levels, and the figure for people coming from the European Union is at its highest level ever, the Office of National Statistics said Thursday.

The agency said an unprecedented 284,000 EU citizens are estimated to have arrived in the year to June — right before Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Immigration was a key issue during Britain's EU referendum in June, when Britons voted by 52 percent to leave the 28-nation bloc. Many who voted "Leave" backed Brexit because they want Britain to have more control over immigration, which is difficult under the EU's freedom-of-movement principle.

British officials have vowed to "take back control" and curb the movement of EU nationals to Britain, but so far it is not clear how that can be achieved.

Net long-term immigration — the difference between the numbers arriving and leaving the country — was estimated at 335,000, down just slightly from 336,000 the year before. Net immigration of EU citizens was 189,000.

Romania was the most common country of last residence, making up 10 percent of all immigrants.

Helen Bower, spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May, said the government stands by its ambition to reduce net migration below 100,000.

"The government has been clear that we are committed to reducing migration to sustainable levels, but that it's going to take time," she said.