The number of EU citizens moving to the UK has plummeted since Brexit, a new report has revealed.
Data shows that just 43,000 EU citizens received visas for work, family, study or other purposes in 2021, a fraction of the 230,000 to 430,000 EU citizens coming to the UK a year in the six years to March 2020, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.
The dramatic decline has put pressure on hospitality and support services, as well as a number of other industries.
Of those who migrated – as opposed to travelling for business or pleasure – to the UK in 2021, EU citizens accounted for just 5 per cent of the number of visas issued.
“The figures available so far are therefore consistent with the possibility of a large decline in EU immigration,” says the report, titled “The end of free movement and the low-wage labour force in the UK”.
The cautions against blaming Brexit solely for the high number of vacancies in the UK, with the pandemic, early retirement among the over-50s, high employment levels across Europe and international labour shortages also contributing factors.
“While there is some evidence that the end of free movement has contributed to shortages in some areas of the UK labour market, it is by no means the only driver. In fact, recruiting difficulties are not unique to the UK and several other countries have experienced high vacancy rates post-pandemic,” said Chris Forde, a professor at Leeds University and co-author of the report for ReWage.
It found hospitality and lower-skilled sectors were worst hit by the end of free movement of EU citizens into the UK.
Hospitality lost 98,000 EU citizens in jobs in the two years to June 2021, and support services including cleaning and maintenance were down 64,000 EU workers.