Official statistics show population growth has slowed to its lowest in a decade following a 12 per cent drop in the number of immigrants in the year after the referendum.
There was a 43 per cent decrease in the number of people immigrating to look for work over the last year, with the fall in the number of EU jobseekers particularly stark.
Data published on Thursday shows there were an estimated 66,040,229 people living in the country at the end of June last year - a 0.6 per cent rise on a year earlier - marking the lowest growth rate since mid-2004.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which released the figures, said the EU referendum was likely to be one of the key drivers of the changes.
Leaders in the health and social care sector have also mounted concerns about its capacity to recruit and retain care staff from other EU countries after Brexit, warning that without the “major contribution” made by foreign workers, more elderly and disabled people will be driven into institutional care settings and away from independent living.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, told The Independent: “Social care is a fundamental public service on which millions of older people and disabled adults depend to live their lives. It is above all a 'people business', but it is proving difficult to attract enough high quality staff who want to engage in this demanding, albeit rewarding, work. Every day there are an estimated 90,000 vacancies in the social care workforce, and in some parts of the country especially a major contribution is made by care staff who have come here from abroad, both from within the EU and also far beyond it."
Phillip Connolly, policy manager at Disability Rights UK, echoed her concerns, saying: “These sectors are largely made up of people from overseas, but more and more of these people have been deterred from coming following the Brexit referendum.
Chai Patel, policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), claimed the UK was becoming a “less welcoming” place for migrants, and warned that this would be a “very serious” problem for public services and Britain’s economic future.
“Immigrants pay more into public services than they take out, so if you’ve got fewer migrants coming in then you’ve got an issue with filling public sector jobs – particularly in the NHS – which is obviously disastrous,” he said. “This kind of decline is not something that the government can just reverse by changing a policy. Once you become somewhere that’s not attractive, you can’t just turn on the tap again and say now we want more immigrants when you need people to fill NHS jobs and pick up the rotting fruit in the fields. You get stuck in the spiral of not being able to get the people you need. Given that this decline is happening before we’ve actually changed any laws, it shows people are making the choice to leave or fewer people are making the choice to come here, and that’s not something this government can choose to reverse when it’s convenient.”