Sunday

11th Apr 2021

Two million British people emigrated to EU, figures show

  • Heathrow airport: The figures come amid a shrill debate on EU migrants (Photo: Curt Smith)

British figures indicate that just as many UK citizens live in the EU as vice-versa, despite popular perceptions.

The numbers, covering 2010, were put forward last week in a government response to a parliamentary question by Matthew Oakeshott, a Liberal member of the House of Lords.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Compared to the 2.3 million EU citizens in the UK, which includes people who came after Poland and nine other states joined the Union in 2004, British consular authorities estimate that 2.2 million Britons live in the other 26 EU countries, excluding Croatia, which joined in 2013.

A previous response to an Oakeshott question in January said another 900 Britons live in Croatia, putting the net immigration-emigration ratio even closer to par, however.

The country breakdown says just over 1 million British people live in Spain.

Other popular destinations are: France (330,000); Ireland (329,000); Germany (107,000); Cyprus (65,000); the Netherlands (48,000); Greece (45,000); Portugal (39,000); and Italy (37,000).

The government reply indicates the real numbers could be higher, due to “a high evidence of non-registration” in France, Portugal and Spain.

Of the total, some 400,000 are British pensioners.

Meanwhile, relatively few have gone to former Communist or former Soviet EU countries, with just 6,000 UK passport holders in Poland, for instance.

The statistics come amid a shrill debate on EU immigration ahead of the European elections in May.

The main British eurosceptic party, Ukip, last year predicted that many economic migrants will come from Bulgaria and Romania when labour restrictions expire on 1 January 2014.

The prediction proved false.

But the ruling Conservative Party took a similar line. It planned a negative advertising campaign to tell people that British weather is bad and there are few jobs on offer.

Prime Minister David Cameron also raised the alarm on “benefit tourism,” singling out Polish people as benefit cheats, despite having no evidence to back up his claim.

For his part, Oakeshott told the Financial Times on Monday (10 February) that the “scaremongering … could poison the atmosphere for 2 million of our fellow countrymen in the rest of Europe."

But Mark Field, a Conservative MP, told the newspaper: “These [figures] are not like for like: Lots of Brits abroad are successful people living in second homes in Spain or France. Most Brits living abroad are not aggressive beggars or sleeping rough on the streets.”

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Opinion

Sweden's non-lockdown didn't work - why not?

The Swedish king would have been better advised to use his annual Christmas interview to call for unity of purpose and shed light on the political roots of the country's response.

Column

BioNTech: Stop talking about their 'migration background'

I understand that the German-Turkish community - often subjected to condescension in Germany - celebrated the story. Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türecki represent scientific excellence and business success at the highest level.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us