United Kingdom net migration lowest in three years

Prime Minister Theresa May has been warned by her Cabinet to remove foreign students from the migration figures to help officially lower net migration

Prime Minister Theresa May has been warned by her Cabinet to remove foreign students from the migration figures to help officially lower net migration

Figures released by the British Office for National Statistics showed net migration stood at 246,000 in the year ending in March 2017 - down 81,000 compared to the previous 12 months.

The change was largely attributed to a sharp decrease in net migration from European Union citizens, which was down by 51,000.

The yearly net immigration of nearly quarter of a million is still above the United Kingdom government's pledge of bringing the figure down to fewer than 100,000 per annum.

Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis welcomed the new figures, saying: "It was good to see a third quarter running of net migration figures coming down". In particular, emigration rose by 17,000 among people from the EU8 countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia.

Unveiling the results, the FDF warned the United Kingdom food sector faces a "rapidly approaching workforce shortage and skills gap" and cautioned that a "cliff edge" scenario dramatically cutting the number of European workers in the United Kingdom would impede the industry's ability to grow, produce and serve food.

But it remains "too early" to tell if this will turn into a "long-term trend".

Worldwide students make up around a quarter of total immigration, according to official figures.

Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said, "We have always been clear that our commitment to reducing net migration to sustainable levels does not detract from our determination to attract global students from around the world".

The pro-business Institute of Directors issued a statement saying the decrease in net migration "should not be celebrated".

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"If it is true that Theresa May intends to grant those European Union citizens currently living in the United Kingdom the right to remain, they should simply be issued this now".

"Signs that it is becoming a less attractive place to live and work are a concern", he added.

The government has also published the first ever "exit checks" data - a proper count of all people who are actually known to have left the UK.

Theresa May has been urged to apologise after it emerged that the number of foreign students overstaying their visas is vastly lower than official figures.

It is not clear what had happened to the remaining 3 percent whose visas had expired.

Ninety-seven percent of worldwide students leave the United Kingdom after their studies, The Guardian reported, suggesting that immigration levels are much lower than previously thought.

"We understand how important students from around the world are to our higher education sector, which is a key export for our country, and that's why we want to have a robust and independent evidence base of their value and the impact they have", said Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who on Thursday commissioned the year-long study to be carried out by the government's independent advisers, the Migration Advisory Committee.

The net migration figure for non-EU citizens was also down, by 14,000, to 179,000.

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