UK net migration remains close to record levels

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Net migration to the UK was 327,000 for the year to March, according to Office for National Statistics estimates.

The figures – covering the period before Britain voted to leave the EU – are down slightly on record levels of 336,000.

Net migration is the difference between the number of people coming to the UK for at least a year and those leaving.

The figure for net migration of EU citizens was estimated to be 180,000, a slight decrease on previous figures.

Nicola White, ONS Head of International Migration Statistics, said: “Net migration remains at record levels although the recent trend is broadly flat.

“The influx of Romanians and Bulgarians has also reached a new high, although that’s off-set by falls in non-EU immigration and from other central and eastern European countries.

“Work remains the main reason for migration, followed by study which has seen a significant fall in the number of people coming to the UK for education.

“It’s important to remember that these figures only go up to the end of March and do not cover the period following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.”

The figures come as Sir David Metcalf, the government’s chief adviser on immigration controls, suggested Prime Minister Theresa May was considering introducing work permits for low skilled migrants from the EU.

Sir David, head of the Migration Advisory Committee, told the Telegraph the scheme would be “pretty straightforward” to run and could be based on a previous work permit system for seasonal agricultural workers.

He said: “The agricultural scheme was terrifically well administered, it was one guy at the Home Office working with operators and farmers.

“It was time limited and capped. We could think of similar sectors where you have got a lot of unskilled European labour. That’s very much tied up with what the prime minster is interested in.”

Mrs May came under fire when she was home secretary for failing to meet the government’s target of getting annual net migration below 100,000.

She has said that reducing net migration will be her “absolute priority” in Brexit negotiations.