James Kirkup, London Telegraph, May 20, 2008
Two million British citizens have left the UK in a decade, the greatest exodus from this country in almost a century, new figures will show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) will release figures showing that more than 200,000 Britons emigrated during 2006. That will take the total number who left the country between 1997 and 2006 to 1.97 million.
Another 1.58 million foreign nationals resident in Britain left during the same period.
However, 3.9 million foreigners arrived over the decade, including more than 500,000 in 2006.
The body will publish the raft of immigration figures on Tuesday, as MPs prepare to dismiss the national statisticians’ data as “not fit for purpose” and demand an overhaul of the way population movements are measured.
On Thursday, the Treasury sub-committee of the House of Commons will conclude that the lack of reliable and up-to-date figures for immigrant populations is hampering Government policy both nationally and locally.
ONS figures only go back to 1991, but some historians say the departure of two million Britons in a decade is almost unparalleled in the country’s history.
According to figures compiled by Jay Winter, of Yale University, the last comparable exodus came between 1911 and 1914, when 2.4 million people left Britain. The other significant spike in emigration came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when thousands of Britons left to start new lives in Australia, Canada and the United States.
The Institute for Public Policy Research, a think-tank, has estimated that there are more than 5.5 million British citizens living abroad.
Jill Rutter, a senior migration researcher at the IPPR, said the recent exodus marked “probably the greatest period of emigration we’ve ever seen”.
She said: “A lot of this is people retiring abroad, which is a relatively new phenomenon and is only possible because we are all better off .
“There is also a much more internationalised labour market and workforce—it is now quite commonplace for people to go abroad to work for a year or more.” Immigrants who come to this country, gain citizenship and then leave also add to the total of British emigrants.
Opposition parties say that some emigrants have been driven out of Britain by its high levels of crime and taxation.
“This explosion in emigration is inevitably a reflection of the state of the country under a Labour government,” said David Davis, the shadow home secretary.