Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

U.K. Can Only Cut EU Migration by 50,000 a Year, Study Suggests

  • Demand for workers is likely to limit post-Brexit reductions
  • That would be a 15% cut in total net immigration to Britain

Brexit is unlikely to significantly help Theresa May in her ambition to cut net migration to the U.K. by more than two-thirds, a study found, pointing out that many of those who move to Britain are needed by employers.

The report published Friday by Global Future, a new pro-immigration think-tank, suggested that tighter controls, as promised by the prime minister, would only shave 50,000 off the current net migration total of 335,000 -- 15 percent. May has stuck with her predecessor David Cameron’s promise to get immigration down to the “tens of thousands” -- generally interpreted as meaning below 100,000.

Annual net migration from the European Union in the year ending June 2016 was 189,000, according to official data. But many of those people are working in industries that would suffer if they weren’t allowed to employ foreign workers. Tighter restrictions on European migrants might also make employers more willing to look at non-EU migrants, who are currently harder to bring into the country.

“There has been considerable debate about the consequences of leaving the single market but very little about whether ending freedom of movement will have anything like the impact many people desire,” Global Future Director Gurnek Bains said in an e-mailed statement. “People do need to ask whether a reduction in net migration of less than one-sixth -- and potentially nothing at all -- is worth a long period of huge economic uncertainty, the collapse of the pound, reductions in inward investment, the loss of British citizens’ rights in the EU and the potential breakup of the U.K.”

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