Although the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, it remained subject to EU law and part of the EU customs union and single market during the transition period. In its 2017 White Paper on Brexit and Fair movement of people, the Welsh government is calling for a managed but more flexible approach to migration, making a strong case for regional policy variations and closely linking migration to employment to address skill shortages and gaps in construction, manufacturing and hospitality. Although the UK has a long history of migration, it only became an immigration country in recent years.
Before the mid-1980s, the number of UK citizens emigrating to the United States, Canada and Australia was higher than the number of immigrants coming from the former colonies. The so-called “refugee crisis” had an impact on the 2016 referendum to leave the Europe Union, as images of people intending to seek safety in Europe were used to fuel the narrative of “migrants” as economic and security threats that justified the need to take back control of the UK borders.