Among the main reasons for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union was the belief that by interrupting the free movement of people, the country would be able to control immigration more easily or, as promised by British Eurosceptics, regain control of its own borders. But three years after Brexit, the ruling Conservative Party has failed to implement these plans. On the contrary, the latest figures showed that 606,000 more people immigrated to the Island last year than left, setting a new record.
Analysts: There are several reasons for the significant increase in immigration.
Critics of the government claim that it has lost control of the situation.
Deep in the stats lies a ray of hope for Rishi Sunak.
The statistics are relentless, especially for a conservative prime minister of Rishi Sunakwho inherited the electoral promise of his predecessor Boris Johnson, that the party will reduce the volume of immigration during this mandate. When the UK left the EU in 2020, the difference between the number of people immigrating to the country and the number of people leaving was 374,000, just over half of last year’s difference.
According to the analysis of the figures from the British Office for National Statistics (ONS), the increase experienced on the Island during this time can be attributed mainly to increased immigration from Ukraine and Hong Kong, increased demand for labor, especially in healthcare, an increase in the number of international students and their families and the increased number of asylum seekers, who were included in the statistics for the first time, according to the migration observatory at the University of Oxford.
Critics of the government claim that it has lost control of the situation and that it has no plan to fulfill the promises made in recent years. Prime Minister Sunak rejected these accusations, but at the same time admitted that the current figures are too high. “The scale of migration is too great. That’s clear. That’s why I want to reduce it,” he emphasized in an interview for ITV.
Last year, a record 45,000 illegal migrants also arrived in the UK across the English Channel. PHOTO: Daniel Leal/Afp
During his mandate, the Prime Minister devoted himself mainly to the fight against illegal migration, which also reached a record level last year, when 45,000 people arrived on the island through the English Channel with the help of smuggling networks. Sunak’s government has decided to turn this problem into a major election issue at the end of its mandate, and thus also a test of its credibility. Legal immigration, on the contrary, has not been problematized by the Tories recently, most likely precisely because of the acute shortage of labor in various economic sectors.
Only a quarter believe that immigration has benefited the country
The absence of this phenomenon from the government’s agenda does not mean that voters have forgotten about it. More than half of British respondents, according to opinion polls published by the YouGov agency, believe that the volume of immigration in the last ten years has been too great, only a quarter of them believe that mass immigration has benefited the country during this time. It is also telling that less than a fifth of respondents trust the largest parties – the ruling Conservatives and the opposition Labor Party – to solve these problems.
Deep in the statistics released today, there is at least one glimmer of hope for Sunak’s government: analysts believe that the upward trend in immigration at the end of last year has already reversed and that the country will not set records in the coming years unless the need for imports increases significantly workforce. Among the main reasons for this, they cite increased emigration of foreign students who came to the UK after 2021 and a significant decrease in arrivals of Ukrainian citizens.
Until then, the government will most likely continue to receive harsh criticism, including from the opposition, that it is wandering in the dark when it comes to regulating migration. “These extraordinary figures, including the doubling of work visas since the pandemic, show that the Conservatives have no plan and no control over immigration,” the shadow home secretary responded to the statistics. Yvette Coopersaying that ministers have failed to deal with the challenges the covid-19 pandemic has presented to the labor market.
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