Migration figures show UK perceived as unwelcoming and intolerant since Brexit vote, says Green MEP

Molly has said a steep fall in net migration figures, revealed today, has been driven by Brexit, and a growing sense that the UK is unwelcoming and intolerant. The figures, from the Office of National Statistics, show a steep drop of 81,000 in net migration. The ONS reports that the change was driven largely by an increase in emigration, mainly of EU citizens, and in particular so-called EU8 citizens – those from Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Malta and Cyprus.

Commenting on the figures, Molly said:

“These statistics show that people are being driven away by Brexit. But we must remember, that behind all such statistics lie real human lives. These are individuals, couples and families who hoped and believed they could make the UK their home, at least for a while, and contribute economically, socially and culturally. These figures show clearly that Brexit has resulted in the UK being perceived as an unwelcoming and intolerant place where once we were viewed as open and accepting. 

“Today’s figures also reveal chaos at the Home Office over the counting of students. It had been assumed that tens of thousands of international students remained in the country illegally after graduating. But border checks introduced last year show that 97% leave once their studies are completed. This over counting of students casts doubts over the credibility of UK immigration statistics as a whole while Theresa May was at the helm in the Home Office.

“Migration became one of the defining issues of the referendum, driven by misinformation from the right-wing media and politicians. The reality is that attitudes towards migration are most negative in areas with low immigration, not high, and young people, who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, on the whole view immigration positively.

“It is interesting to note that since we voted to leave the EU concerns over migration have dropped sharply, and the right-wing press have turned their concerns away from migrants ‘taking all our jobs’ to worries about labour shortages post-Brexit.

“For those of us who form the majority and who wish the UK to be a welcoming and compassionate society, we must continue to challenge poisonous narratives around migration as well as make the economic and social case for continued freedom of movement.”