The net migration of EU citizens to Britain has almost stopped in large areas of the country, according to research that has triggered calls for the uniform immigration policy to be abandoned.
Data analysed by the Institute for Public Policy Research reveals considerable variations in migration levels in England, Wales and Scotland, with London and the south-east continuing to attract EU nationals, and other regions seeing numbers decline sharply over the past 12 months.
There was a net annual increase of just 2,000 EU citizens in south-west England in 2016, according to the IPPR’s analysis of official figures. The north-west and Wales attracted 4,000 more EU citizens and the north-east, 3,000.
The decline was particularly marked in the north-west: in 2015, the region had attracted 16,000 more EU citizens than the previous year.
London, by contrast, attracted 22,000 more EU citizens in 2016 than the previous year; and the south-east, 21,000. Scotland attracted 11,000, compared with 7,000 in 2015.
An IPPR discussion paper, An Immigration Strategy for the UK, to be published on Tuesday, concludes that a uniform migration system with no regional flexibility will fail to meet the different labour and demographic needs around the country after Brexit.
It calls for regional differences in immigration rules, allowing those that need more people to address labour shortages or boost their population to offer incentives for them to immigrate.
Official figures this week confirmed that net migration to Britain fell by 106,000 to 230,000 in the 12 months to June, sparking claims of a “Brexodus”. But the IPPR’s regional analysis suggests something more complex is taking place.
Phoebe Griffith, the author of the paper, said: “These latest statistics show our current immigration system is not working for the whole of the UK.
“As we leave the EU, we need to make sure each of our nations and regions – not just London – has a voice in shaping how immigration works in future, to meet their labour and demographic needs.”
The paper said the immigration debate had left many people with a “pervading sense of disempowerment in the face of considerable change”.