A Brexiteer Tory MP on Monday admitted immigration has increased since Britain voted to leave the EU.
Despite the Leave campaign proclaiming that Brexit would mean “taking back control” on immigration and asylum, and cutting migration to the tens of thousands, the UK is seeing a rise of people coming from abroad.
Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough MPin Leicestershire. accused Boris Johnson’s Government of “liberalising non-EU migration” since Brexit by ending caps on visas, lowering qualification requirements and removing minimum earning requirements for skilled migrants.
The number of small boats arriving on the shores of Kent had “highlighted” the issue and increased the risk of a new populist party forming in the UK, the former Levelling up minister added.
More than 20,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats so far this year. Some 607 people made the perilous journey on Saturday alone – the third time the total has topped 600 since the start of 2022.
“Immigration will be one of the hottest issues facing the new Prime Minister,” Mr O’Brien wrote in an article for ConservativeHome.
“First, many Leave voters assumed Brexit would reduce immigration. But since the referendum it’s increased. And people are starting to notice.
“Second, the small boats crisis highlights it. If the new Prime Minister doesn’t grip that, could be the spark for a new populist party.”
The proportion of UK residents born overseas has increased by 7 per cent since 2000.
In 2021 there were approximately 6 million people with non-British nationality living in the UK and 9.6m people who were born abroad, according to Government data.
Some 573,000 people migrated into the UK in the year ending June 2021, compared to 334,000 people who emigrated from it.
Holger Hestermeyer, professor of international and EU law at King’s College London, found that many European countries have seen an increase in the number of residents born abroad.
“The UK does not seem to be an outlier, but rather fits into the Western European context,” he said.
But Mr O’Brien said the UK was now seeing more immigration from “poorer” countries, rather than European areas or Canada, the US, New Zealand and Australia.
“The same very high immigration, but more from poorer countries wasn’t what people wanted from Brexit,” he said.
It comes as a new report revealed a shortage of workers across the UK has been made worse by Brexit.
Data shows that just 43,000 EU citizens received visas for work, study, family or other purposes last year, a fraction of the up to 430,000 Europeans who came to the UK annually in the six years to March 2020.
The British hospitality and support services have been hit particularly hard and labour shortages means some employers are having to raise wages to attract staff, which is further forcing up prices as inflation soars.