Grassroots Hub

Brexit Briefings

Security & Migration

'Taking back control of our borders’ was one of the main slogans of the Vote Leave campaign, which told its supporters that immigration would go down.

That has not happened – immigration from the EU has gone down but overall immigration has not. Despite that, there are still labour shortages in key areas – including the NHS - where EU workers had previously filled gaps.

Neither has Brexit led to a reduction in irregular migration, notably across the Channel. Indeed, by removing the UK from the EU’s ‘Dublin Regulation’, it has made it more difficult to return asylum seekers to EU countries where they first arrived, for their claims to be processed there.

The UK is not part of European schemes – it opted out of these even before Brexit - to encourage the migration of skilled people or to provide legal routes to resettle people from war-torn parts of the world. If there are no legal routes, desperate people will try other means.

The UK receives – and always has received - relatively few asylum claims compared to many EU countries: in 2021, EU countries overall received about double the number of applications per capita as the UK. In 2020, when compared with EU countries, the UK ranked 14th in terms of the number of asylum applications per capita.

Brexit has also made it more difficult to work and exchange crime and justice information with authorities in EU countries, notably to prevent known criminals from entering the UK. In particular, UK border authorities no longer have instant access to the full data held by authorities in the EU. The UK is no longer a member of the EU’s crime-fighting body Europol.

The UK is now also outside the European Arrest Warrant scheme, which means it is now more difficult to extradite to the UK from Europe people who have committed serious offences in the UK. In the past, the EAW enabled the arrest of, for example, terrorists who had plotted explosions in London in 2005. Between 2009 and 2014, 63 suspects for child sex offences, 27 for rape and 44 for murder were extradited back to Britain to face charges.

All this means Brexit has left the UK more vulnerable to organised crime, including terrorism, major financial crime and people trafficking.

Over 630 000 people applied for asylum in the EU (about 14 per ten thousand of population) compared to under 50 000 in the UK (about 7.5 per ten thousand of population) – source UN.