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Has Brexit solved immigration?

Who will be the next James Bond, who´s going to win the X factor, will Britain leave the UK? Every pub in Britain was buzzing with these 3 questions back in 2016. While the answer to each of these questions left had an impact, the latter has changed not only the history of our nation, but of the whole world. After the 2016 referendum where 52% of Brits voted to leave, the nation was taken ill with Brexit fever and was only cured in 2020 by Boris Johnson.

So, what is inside this big box named ´Brexit´, all covered up with Union Jack wrapping paper? Millions and millions of pounds of funding for the NHS, safer borders, countless jobs recovered from the immigrants who stole them; these were some of the most vehiculated promises heard on the news. However, as the nation started unwrapping, this Brexit box turned more and more into Pandora’s box.

Seven years have now passed, and the aftershocks of leaving the EU are still felt. Looking back at this journey, there were ups, downs, and everything in between. But did Brexit deliver on any of its promises? The data seems to say yes, when it comes to immigration.

Comparing EU against Non-EU immigration, the aftermath of Brexit is clear. Since 2009, EU immigration to the UK has seen a steady increase, with a massive jump in numbers between 2012 and 2014. Once the Brexit results were in, EU immigration began to decline, and numbers continue to decrease to this day.

It seems, however, that Brexit generated inversely proportional reactions from Non-EU immigrants. The year 2016 saw a definite increase in immigration numbers coming from Non-EU countries, with numbers skyrocketing between 2020 and 2022, during the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of numbers, roughly the same amount of people are entering the UK, EU citizens now replaced by Non-EU citizens.

So, does this leave our economy unchanged? Quite the opposite; if this trend persists, British economy could be facing severe labor shortage in blue collar positions. The majority of EU citizens came over to the UK for seasonal work; meanwhile, Non-EU citizens travel over to study. Solely from this viewpoint, EU immigration is more beneficial for the UK; seasonal workers add to the economy through the delivery of services, while students contract the economy through governmental loans for tuition and maintenance. Moreover, seasonal workers are more likely to depart from the UK once their contract is up, whereas non-UK students are more likely to stay after their studies are completed. EU immigrants have a more immediate impact on the economy; through blue collar jobs such as fruit picking, local farmers can harvest their crops and deliver fresh produce to UK stores. Long term, however, non-EU citizens could also benefit the economy, provided they find jobs in their field of study and work towards paying off their debts.

What the surveys do not show, however, is the number of immigrants coming into the UK with criminal intentions. In the wake of Brexit, the British people were accused of xenophobia and intolerance in no unclear terms. Whereas there may be a fraction of truthfulness to this, it was in no way the biggest part. The British public was resentful towards the percentage of EU immigrants who engaged in antisocial behavior inside the UK, received a prison sentence, but could not be sent to their origin country to serve out their time; because they were EU nationals, they had to be treated just as a British national would be.

Brexit may not have solved all the problems with immigration, but it definitely solved this one. The highest number of offenders for the EU were deported in 2016 and 2017: over 4000. Percentages may be on the decline, yet numbers are still rather high, at little under 2000 EU nationals having been deported in 2021.

In 2016, the UK shocked the world by voting to leave the European Union. The decision was unprecedented and, up until then, unconceivable, as most European countries aimed to enter the Union. The journey out has surely been a bumpy ride, with many stops and delays along the way. The full effects of Brexit remain to be seen, as history is developing. EU immigration has been impacted drastically, and numbers are still on a downwards trajectory. The number of EU offenders on British soil has been decreased through deportation. That is noteworthy, and that’s what stricter immigration laws should be all about: keeping our country safe.


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