Brexodus of EU citizens from the UK is picking up speed

Fewer EU citizens are now coming to the UK and more are leaving, according to new migration statistics that give credence to the idea of a growing “Brexodus” following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Brexodus of EU citizens from the UK is picking up speed
Photo: lightsource/Depositphotos

By Marina Shapira, University of Stirling

Overall 90,000 more EU citizens came to the UK than left in the year to September 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but this level of net migration was 75,000 lower than the same figure in September 2016. In the same period, 130,000 EU citizens emigrated, the most since 2008.


The ONS head of migration statistics, Nicola White, said Brexit “could well be a factor in people’s decision to move to or from the UK,” though she noted that “people’s decision to migrate is complicated and can be influenced by lots of different reasons.”

Overall net migration – the difference between the number of people coming to the UK and the number of those leaving – stood at 244,000 in the year to September 2017. This was 29,000 lower than the previous year, though it is not a statistically significant change. While these levels are lower than the record level of net migration found between March 2015 and June 2016, they are very similar to those recorded in 2014.

The fall in EU net migration is particularly apparent for the “old” EU member states, such as France and Spain, known as the EU15, and for Romania and Bulgaria known as the EU2. There was no statistically significant change in the net migration level from the eight newer EU member states, which include Poland and Hungary. There were fewer EU citizens coming to the UK looking for work in year ending September 2017, however, there was no statistically significant change in the numbers of EU citizens arriving with a definite job.

Department for Work and Pensions figures cited by the ONS show a 17% decrease in the number of National Insurance number registrations over the year to December 2017. The decrease was particularly large for Polish nationals (down 34%) and Spanish nationals (down 25%).

But the patterns of migration are different for EU and non-EU citizens. Non-EU net-migration increased in the year to September 2017 and now stands at more than twice as high as the level of EU migration. The main reason for this, according to the ONS, was an increase in the number of people from outside the EU who are arrived in the UK to study.

Visa blockages

There was a 1% increase in the total number of work-related visas to non-EU citizens granted over the same period. This was despite the fact that that there had been a 2.4% decrease in visa sponsorship applications overall. The majority of those visas granted were for skilled workers, known as Tier 2 visas.

But by February 2018, the UK had hit its cap on Tier 2 visas for skilled non-EU migrants for three months in a row. This means more and more employers are having applications to sponsor visas for highly skilled workers from outside the EU refused. This, combined with the decline in the numbers of EU workers, is causing headaches for employers. As Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, put it: “The government’s continued rhetoric of an immigration system that only works to attract ‘the brightest and the best’ simply doesn’t tally with what employers want or the economy needs.”

There are persistent concerns among the British public that migrant workers and in particular those from the new EU member states are taking jobs from British workers. Those who were expressing support for ending the EU citizens rights to live and work in the UK were also more likely to support the vote for Leave in the EU referendum.

Yet, numerous studies on the labour market impact of immigration, including my own, show that overall, any negative impact of immigration on the job prospects and wages of native workers is small and very short-term. It depends on relative skill characteristics of immigrant and native workers as well as on the characteristics of the local and national economy. In the long run the native workers benefit from the presence of immigrant workers in the labour market.

The ConversationAlthough an anticipated large fall in overall net migration levels did not materialise – with levels similar to those reported in November 2017 – there has been another fall in EU net migration. It seems that, for a number of reasons, the UK is becoming a far less attractive place EU citizens – not least because of the uncertainty of Brexit and because very little is known yet about what future immigration policy will look like towards EU citizens once the UK has left the EU.

Marina Shapira, Lecturer in Quantitative Research Methods, University of Stirling

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.



Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.