UK

EU citizens: Record numbers working in UK - official figures

A worker picks fruit in Northumberland Image copyright PA

The number of EU nationals working in the UK has reached a record level, figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

An estimated 2.38 million employees began work between July and September this year - a rise of 112,000 compared with 2016 and the highest number since records began 20 years ago.

However, the number of working non-EU nationals in the UK has fallen.

It is the first clear quarterly comparison since the EU referendum.

The immigration lobby group, Migration Watch UK, said the figures proved the UK would be able to maintain its appeal to EU citizens after Brexit.

It said fears of an exodus of EU workers were "nonsense".

Matt Hughes, a senior ONS statistician, said: "The number of non-UK nationals in work is still rising, albeit more slowly than in the last couple of years.

"However, this is being driven by EU citizens. The number of non-EU nationals working in the UK has fallen in the last year."

Much of the increase has been driven by workers from the newer EU states, such as Romania and Bulgaria - which joined the EU in 2007.

The UK now employs 347,000 nationals from these two countries - a 90,000 increase compared with the same time last year.

Citizens of Romania and Bulgaria have been able to work in Britain since 2014.

The number of employees from the first wave of eastern European countries to join the EU, including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, fell by 20,000 to 1.3 million, the ONS figures show.

A similar drop has been recorded among non-EU nationals working in the UK - falling by 23,000 to 2.1 million.

The ONS stressed that the figures are only representative of employment and are not indicative of overall migrant flows to the UK.

Brexit boost?

The data comes as the government draws up post-Brexit labour plans for when freedom of movement ends - expected in March 2019.

Previous ONS analysis revealed the UK relies on EU workers to maintain its services and industries.

More than 2 million workers from the bloc were employed in manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality and financial services in 2016.

Alp Mehmet, Vice Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said the figures showed that the UK could maintain its appeal to EU citizens after Brexit.

"Today's figures show that predictions of a Brexodus - an outflow of EU workers - are nonsense. In fact there has been an increase of nearly 50,000 in the last year.

"Part of this is a net inflow of about 80,000 Romanians and Bulgarians who mainly go into low paid work.

"It would be absurd to suggest that this continuing inflow is vital to our economy," he said.

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