The United Kingdom’s population rose at its slowest pace in nearly two decades in the year to mid-2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic looks on track to cause the first net annual outflow of migrants since 1993, statistics office data showed on Friday.
The UK population rose to 67.1 million people in the middle of last year from 66.8 million in mid-2019, the weakest annual growth since 2003, the data showed.
COVID-19 has claimed more than 127,000 lives in Britain, the highest total in Europe – though most of those were recorded after the mid-point of last year. It also appears to have led to a sharp fall in immigration to Britain, at least temporarily.
The United Kingdom’s population growth rate in the year to mid-2020 dropped to 0.47% from 0.54% in the year to mid-2019, according to provisional data published by the Office for National Statistics on Friday.
The ONS described the growth estimate as “marking one of the smallest increases seen in the context of historical trends”.
Annual population growth in Britain exceeded 0.8% in 2011 and 2016, reflecting high levels of net migration, especially from eastern and southern Europe.
Britain introduced tougher immigration rules at the start of this year, following its departure from the European Union, aimed at reducing the number of lower-skilled migrants.
The ONS has been unable to publish its usual immigration data for periods after the start of the COVID pandemic, as they relied on face-to-face surveys at airports.
Friday’s population data included modelled estimates for net migration between March and June, drawing on a range of data including non-clinical health records, social security numbers, flight and ferry passenger details and border checks.
These showed 67,000 more people left Britain than arrived in the four months to the end of June 2020, compared with net immigration of 21,000 people over the same period in 2019, though there is a very high range of uncertainty.
If this trend is sustained, 2020 will be the first year to see net emigration from Britain since 1993.
The ONS said it would publish a more accurate population estimate for mid-2020 this summer.
An initial estimate by the ONS for Britain’s population at the end of 2020 ranged between 67.0 million and 67.2 million, depending on the migration assumptions used.