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Brexit: UK-based Poles told to 'seriously consider returning home' after Britain leaves

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By Alice Tidey
A billboard displays a UK government Brexit information awareness campaign in London on  September 11, 2019.
A billboard displays a UK government Brexit information awareness campaign in London on September 11, 2019.   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Poland's ambassador to the UK has urged his compatriots to "seriously consider returning" to their home country after Brexit.

Arkady Rzegocki warned in a letter addressed to Poles living in the UK that the country's decision to leave the European Union meant that several changes would soon kick in "including the free movement of EU citizens and documentation of their stay in the British Isles".

He stressed that Polish expats now need to apply for settled status in order to remain in the UK after Brexit and deplored that only 27% of them have so far done so.

"This is an alarmingly low level, meaning that thousands of Polish citizens may be exposed to complications related to the lack of regulating their status," he wrote.

An estimated 3.6 million EU citizens reside in the UK, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Polish citizens are the largest group with 832,000 believed to be living in the UK, ahead of Romanians (392,000) and Irish nationals (369,000).

As of July 31 2019, more than one million EU citizens and their families had applied to the Settlement Scheme, British government figures show. Again, Poles lead their European counterparts but only 179,800 applications had been submitted.

Read more: Juncker and Barnier address EU Parliament on Brexit as MEPs vote on Article 50 extension

Rzegocki highlighted that applications "must be done by the end of June 2021, and in the event of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement, by the end of 2020."

"This applies to all non-British citizens, regardless of their current status, including residents," he added.

But he made another appeal to his compatriots, writing: "I also encourage you to seriously consider the possibility of returning to Poland."

"The rapidly growing economy of our country creates more and more opportunities for citizens for development and having good living conditions in the country," he added.

According to Eurostat, unemployment in Poland stood at 3.3% in July, slightly lower than the UK's 3.8% rate.

Poland is also expected to grow much faster than the UK with the European Commission forecasting that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will rise by 4.4% this year and 3.6% in 2020. The UK's GDP, meanwhile, is predicted to grow 1.3% both years.

But the mean equivalised net income — the average income available to all households to spend or save after tax and other deductions — in both countries is vastly different.

UK residents had an average of €20,995 at their disposal in 2017 — the last year with available data for both countries — while those in Poland had €5,945, according to Eurostat.

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