May holds Chequers Brexit cabinet meeting

Jack Taylor via Getty Images

Jack Taylor via Getty Images

The backbiting and bickering must stop - the Government needs to be far more united in its approach to Brexit if it is to retain the confidence of the country at large and demonstrate to the European Union that Mrs May will be no pushover in future talks.

Meanwhile, overall net migration - the different between people coming and going - have fallen by 29,000 to 244,000 during the same period.

"Brexit could well be a factor in people's decision to move to or from the United Kingdom, but people's decision to migrate is complicated and can be influenced by lots of different reasons", said Nicola White, head of global migration statistics at the ONS.

The resulting net figure of 90,000 is approximately the same level as in 2012.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has met with her Cabinet ministers at Chequers to hammer out the government's definitive position on a post-Brexit relationship while having to deny claims that it is seeking an open-ended transition period between March 2019 and the final severing of institutional ties with Brussels.

At the same time, the number of European Union leavers, which hadn't risen higher than 100,000 since 2010, began to rise, from 95,000 to 130,000. As Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, put it: "The government's continued rhetoric of an immigration system that only works to attract "the brightest and the best" simply doesn't tally with what employers want or the economy needs".

In an implicit warning to Britain, EU Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs the summit, says he will inform leaders how he plans to draw up the guidelines for future relations with their departing partner.

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It could mean more time to work out solutions to the Irish border.

Asked whether falling numbers would adversely affect some sectors, in particular the NHS, Ms Nokes said the independent migration advisory committee was due to report its findings on European Union patterns to the government in September so decisions could be made based on evidence.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said: "We are committed to controlled and sustainable migration - bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands".

However, a Whitehall source told Politico last night that the government was not backing down on migration - at least, not necessarily: "We are not conceding it - but we are also not putting a roadblock in the way at the outset".

"Speaking to Sky News before the summit, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "[Frictionless trade] is absolutely the target, it matters to me enormously. (The latest data covers the year to September 2017.) It's now back to where it was in 2012.

This was 39% lower than the peak of 232,262 in 2013.

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