The dramatic recent falls in immigration are being linked in the press solely with this government's commendable actions in closing one of Labour's biggest open gates - the bogus 'business studies' colleges. With a right to issue visas, 'students' mainly from Africa and the Indian sub-continent paid their dosh to these back-doors into Britain and in return had the right both to work and to bring in their spouse. Work was often full-time rather than the permitted part-time, and spouses were soon filling the beds of the local maternity wards. These free-riders have effectively been excluded, whilst the real universities have not suffered at all - the increase in Chinese students, few of whom intend to stay permanently, making up for the lost bogus scholars.
But I don't think this is the only factor in the immigration drop. Construction output has slumped over the past year, as the chart shows clearly;
With this downturn have departed many of the Bulgarians, Albanians, Romanians, Poles, Portuguese and Turks from our construction sites. Their work patterns are complex - many work, say, eight months in the UK then spend the rest of the time at home helping with harvests. For others the two-week Christmas shutdown becomes a couple of months, as they catch up with building their own homes or caring for their elderly mums. Browsing the easyjet fares tables will tell you when they're going and returning. Many who go home this Christmas won't be back - there's just not the work.
And this kind of labour market flexibility is vital for UK construction, and should be welcomed by a UK government unemcumbered by employment and housing costs. Let's make sure we don't lose the baby with the bathwater.