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BREXIT

Number of Britons who move to EU at highest level in a decade

The number of Britons relocating to EU countries is at a 10-year high.

Number of Britons who move to EU at highest level in a decade
People protest against Brexit in Malaga, Spain on September 22nd. Photo: AFP

A new study has revealed the increasing number of Britons making use of their freedom to live and work in other EU countries.

The number has increased markedly and the rate of departure accelerated since the 2016 Brexit referendum, according to the report.

Up to 84,000 people are expected to leave the United Kingdom and move to EU countries this year, according to the analysis, which was conducted by the Oxford in Berlin group and the Berlin Social Science Centre (WZB).

The figure demonstrates a drastic increase when compared with the 59,000 who made the same move in 2008.

Migration researcher and co-author of the study Dr Daniel Auer said: “These dramatic jumps tell us we’re onto a significant social phenomenon here whose implications are yet to be understood.”

The study also looked specifically at relocations from the UK to Germany. A similar trend was observed here, with 11,500 people making that move in 2018, compared to 8,500 in 2008.

Citizenship and nationalization figures also follow the same trend. While 622 Britons received German citizenship in 2015, 7,493 were naturalized in 2017, the report states. For the EU as a whole, naturalizations rose from 2,106 in 2015 to 14,678 in 2017.

Daniel Tetlow, one of the researchers behind the study, said that researchers also conducted interviews with people who had moved from the UK to the EU, in an effort to understand the trend.

Changes to the way people see their British identity are part of the explanation, Tetlow told The Guardian newspaper.

“One of the things I find most striking is this new British-European identity that many refer to,” he said.

“And no, it’s not just the privileged metro middle classes; I’ve met proud British mechanics, ex-British forces, British ambulance drivers, British teachers and unemployed Brits, and because of Brexit almost all of them feel a new motivation in being active Europeans, and no less British as a result,” the researcher added.

The analysis is based on figures from the OECD and national statistics offices in the relevant countries.

Quantitative parts of the study looked at British nationals who left the country between 2008 and 2019.

As many as 30 percent of this group said that Brexit had affected their mental health, and half said that they would consider giving up their British nationality if necessary to be able to keep their EU nationality.

The deadline for Brexit is currently October 31st, with an EU decision outstanding on the length of an extension to be offered to the UK.

READ ALSO: EU27 fail to agree length of Brexit extension

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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