Indians issued maximum work visas to UK in 2016

Statisticians said the change in long-term worldwide net migration - covering people coming to and leaving the country for at least 12 months - was driven by a rise in emigration, which was up 40,000 on 2015.

"The study shows that the common view that United Kingdom workers are lazy compared to migrant workers is misconceived: in fact migrants are temporarily working extra hard to offset the challenges they face when they first enter the United Kingdom job market", Dr Chris Dawson, senior lecturer in business economics, said, according to An estimated 43,000 migrants from the so-called "EU8" states-the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia-left in 2016, an increase of 16,000 from 2015. Think tank Our Global Future published a report earlier this month noted the importance of immigration to the United Kingdom economy, estimating that an annual net migration figure "well in excess of 200,000" will be needed in the long term to avoid "catastrophic consequences for the economy". The decrease on 2015 immigration figures of 43,000 was seen as not statistically significant, but the rise in emigration of 40,000 (mainly comprised of European Union citizens at 31,000) was statistically significant.

The ONS said net migration for those eight countries fell by 41,000 to 5,000, the smallest estimate recorded since they joined the European Union in 2004. The government has repeatedly failed to meet a pledge to reduce the net annual level to below 100,000. The Conservatives have consistently missed that target after making the same promise in the 2010 and 2015 elections.

Stephen Clarke, economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: "The sharp fall in migration since the referendum shows that British businesses need to start preparing now for a big shift in the labour market, even before we leave the EU".

Britain's settlement following departure from the bloc is expected to include restrictions on free movement rules, although the precise arrangements for post-Brexit immigration are yet to be thrashed out.

Immigration of non-EU migrants was down from 279,000 in 2015 to 264,000 in 2016. "It is too early to tell if this trend will continue".

The drop in immigration is in part due to 25,000 fewer Poles and other eastern Europeans moving to Britain for work, likely due to the uncertainty of their futures in the United Kingdom in the way of the British decision to leave the European Union. "They are an integrated and welcome part of our society". "We're determined to make sure that we do continue to reduce the overall net migration number", said United Kingdom home secretary Amber Rudd.

Alp Mehmet, vice chairman of Migration Watch UK, a think tank which campaigns for tighter immigration controls, said: "This reduction in net migration is welcome but it is still running at a quarter of a million a year - a level that would once have been dismissed as incredible".

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