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Brexit uncertainty: Study shows 30% rise in UK citizens moving to EU countries since 2016

The UK flag, right, and the EU flag, left.
The UK flag, right, and the EU flag, left. Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reservedAP
Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
By Euronews
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Brexit has led to a sharp increase in the number of people moving from the United Kingdom to European Union countries, a new study suggests.


An additional 17,000 British citizens per year have moved to an EU country since the UK voted to leave the bloc, according to an analysis from Oxford in Berlin and the Berlin-based WZB Social Science Centre.

This represents a 30 per cent rise, from about 57,000 UK citizens a year between 2008 and 2015 to more than 73,000 a year between 2016 and 2018.

Many people said they were leaving the UK due to the sense of uncertainty provoked by Brexit.

UK citizens seek to move to EU countries "to improve their economic and social future and mitigate some of the negative impact that Brexit is having on their lives," researchers said.

Researchers found that those leaving were also willing to take more risks with some accepting pay cuts and others arriving in their new country of residence without a job.

Seeking to keep their European citizenship

Study co-author Daniel Tetlow said the study showed that people were thinking about their long-term identity, meaning that a lot of British people already living abroad want to remain European citizens.

This "was reflected in a huge rise in citizenship and dual citizenship figures," he told Euronews.

"For example, across the EU, there was a rise of around 500% in Brits getting EU Member State citizenship, and in Germany, the increase in the number of British citizens acquiring a German passport was as high as over 2,000% between 2015 and 2019," Tetlow told Good Morning Europe.

Since the Brexit referendum, 31,600 Britons have been granted German citizenship.

Tetlow says this represents a change in migration trends that has never been seen before.

Auer, Daniel and Tetlow, Daniel (2020) Brexit, Collective Uncertainty and Migration Decisions. WZB Discussion Paper SP VI 2020–102.
Naturalisations of British citizensAuer, Daniel and Tetlow, Daniel (2020) Brexit, Collective Uncertainty and Migration Decisions. WZB Discussion Paper SP VI 2020–102.

Spur of the moment decision

Researchers were struck by the range of different people choosing to leave the UK to continue living in the European Union.

They interviewed 46 British citizens who chose to live in Germany and found that the decision to leave the UK was sometimes made a lot more quickly, even "impulsively", by those leaving after Brexit compared to those leaving before.

"The time that passed between the decision to emigrate and actual emigration shortened from around 12 months to a few weeks, with people generally being more prepared to take risks," the report said.

Tetlow told Euronews that talking to those who chose to leave the UK made him see that British citizens are now more willing to integrate in their new country of residence.

"Ironically kind of contrary to the stereotype of, of Brits abroad, we're really committing to a life in continental Europe, for example, with much stronger language abilities," Tetlow said.

He added that for people now living in EU countries it "really is about embedding in the local culture".

Researchers concluded that they have identified a new social phenomenon that will have a lasting impact on UK immigration but also on EU countries and their integration policies.

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