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In this article, Sophie Barrett-Brown and Miglena Ilieva of Laura Devine discuss attitudes to immigration in Britain, and how the Conservative Party has failed to enforce their reductions.

Recent Ipsos Mori polls suggesting that attitudes to immigration in Britain are softening could not have been more timely. As the Conservative Party prepares to choose the country’s next leader, the shift in attitudes marks an end to Theresa May’s legacy of attempting – and failing – to reduce net migration figures arbitrarily to the ‘tens of thousands’ as well as creating the now widely-known ‘hostile environment’ policy.

While the current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid has preferred to refer to ‘sustainable levels of net migration’ and the ‘compliant environment’, it seems clear that the UK is becoming less anxious about immigration.

It is notable that this shift in social attitudes has occurred while free movement remains very much intact and when there have been no significant changes to the current immigration system.

Moreover, the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that net migration to the UK has remained largely stable since the second half of 2016, when attitudes towards immigration were comparatively more hostile, with immigration being one of the top reasons why people voted to leave the European Union.

Fewer EU migrants moving to the UK for work

Whilst net migration remains positive overall, EU net migration has been in steady decline since the referendum. In particular, the latest figures show that more nationals from the EU10 countries (including Poland – the largest source country of EU nationals in the UK), are continuing to leave the UK than arriving.

As we have observed since 2016, the declining trend in EU migration reflects the personal choice of EU migrants, not the impact of any legal or policy changes; the UK is seen by EU nationals as a less desirable place to live, work and do business. Read more

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