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.


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Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”