More than 50,000 EU citizens leave the UK after Brexit vote

Figures show more people leaving Britain and fewer arriving

More than 50,000 EU citizens leave the UK after Brexit vote

File photo. Steve Parsons/PA Wire/PA Images

Net migration to the UK has fallen to the lowest level for three years, as thousands of European Union citizens have left the country after the Brexit referendum.

Figures released by the British Office for National Statistics showed net migration stood at 246,000 in the year ending in March 2017 - down 81,000 compared to the previous 12 months.

More than half the drop was due to an increase in the number of EU citizens leaving Britain and fewer arriving.

Net migration of EU citizens fell by 51,000 to 127,000 - its lowest lever since December 2013.

The number of EU citizens leaving the country increased by 33,000 year-on-year to 122,000 - the highest outflow for nearly a decade.

Departures saw a particularly sharp rise - 17,000 - in citizens from a group of countries that joined the bloc in 2004: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The net migration figure for non-EU citizens was also down, by 14,000, to 179,000.

Source: Office for National Statistics

The figures were the first to be released since the British general election in June.

The UK government wants to cut net migration to the "tens of thousands" but so far it has failed to meet the target.

It said it was "encouraged" by the figures, but "not complacent".

"There is still more work to do to bring net migration down further to sustainable levels," said UK Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis.

"People who come to our country to work bring significant benefits to the UK, but there is no consent for uncontrolled immigration."

London has also ordered an investigation into the impact of foreign students on the country.

But figures showed that some 96.3% of overseas students with a visa departed before the visa expired.

Britain has said it aims to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain - one of the key issues in divorce negotiations between the UK and Brussels.

But so far a deal has been elusive.