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By Peter Hoskin
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Here’s
a turn-up: net
migration in the year to March fell from 242,000 to 183,000, the largest drop
for four years. This was driven by a reduction in inward migration from 578,000
to 536,000, as well as by an increase in emigration from 108,000 to 127,000. And
it’s got Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch UK saying that:

“At last we
can see some light at the end of the tunnel. We can now see the first effects
of the government’s measures to reduce immigration. There is a distance to go
but they are on the right track.”

It’s
come at a helpful time for Theresa May, particularly given the stories
in this morning’s papers
about the Border Agency and the abuse of student
visas. But, actually, the debate may now settle on those students who aren’t
abusing their stay in the UK. The IPPR points out in
its response to today’s figures
that the number of visas for study fell by 26
per cent over the same time period. There are some in Coalition who worry about
the effect this will have both on the higher education system — which relies on
foreign students for cash — and on the wider economy. Besides, fewer foreign
students now could result in less emigration in future, as foreign students tend to
move back abroad once they’ve completed their studies. This may mean that net migration
falls less sharply in future.

In
any case, it’s still going to be very difficult for the Conservatives to meet
their aspiration of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands” in this
Parliament. But, just as with public
sector net borrowing
, at least the party now has a significant number to
put on its posters: we’ve reduced net migration by a quarter in a year.

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