The government has been warned of the “disastrous” impact of the Brexit vote on the economy as figures reveal immigration has plummeted while the number of vacancies remains at a record high.
Official statistics show population growth has slowed to its lowest rate in a decade following a 12 per cent drop in the number of immigrants in the year after the referendum.
There was a 43 per cent decrease in the number of people immigrating to look for work over the last year, with the fall in the number of EU jobseekers particularly stark.
Politicians, charities and businesses have issued a warning to ministers about the detrimental effect Brexit is already having on the workforce, urging that the current decline in EU workers cannot be easily reversed and could lead to “very serious problems” for the economy.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the government’s failure to provide certainty for EU nationals, coupled with Theresa May’s hostile environment policies, were driving vital workers out and “damaging” British society and prosperity.
Data published on Thursday, shows there were an estimated 66,040,229 people living in the country at the end of June last year – a 0.6 per cent rise on a year earlier – marking the lowest growth rate since mid-2004.
The Office for National Statistics, which released the figures, said the EU referendum was likely to be one of the key drivers of the changes.
In the 12 months after the Brexit vote, there was a 9 per cent increase in people leaving the UK and a 12 per cent drop in immigrants coming into the country, the figures show.
The dramatic decrease in migration from the EU has sparked warnings over “brain drain” from vital industries.
The Confederation of British industry (CBI) said job vacancies were at a record high and that access to skills and labour was a “huge concern” for businesses in the UK.
“Businesses want to help their EU staff navigate the process to stay in the UK and welcome the recent clarity around future rules. But the significant number of EU migrants leaving is a reminder that the UK must remain an attractive place to work,” a CBI spokesperson said.
“It is also time to confirm that this offer to EU citizens is independent of wider negotiations and that it will not be taken off the table altogether in the event of ‘no deal’.”
Leaders in the health and social care sector have also mounted concerns about its capacity to recruit and retain care staff from other EU countries after Brexit, warning that without the “major contribution” made by foreign workers, more elderly and disabled people will be driven into institutional care settings and away from independent living.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, told The Independent: “Social care is a fundamental public service on which millions of older people and disabled adults depend to live their lives. It is above all a ‘people business’, but it is proving difficult to attract enough high quality staff who want to engage in this demanding, albeit rewarding, work.