Brexit ‘dominant driver’ behind recent surge of Brits moving to the EU, study finds

International flights resume at London City Airport in Royal Docks today. Picture: Andrew Baker

International flights resume at London City Airport in Royal Docks today. Picture: Andrew Baker - Credit: ANDREW BAKER

Brexit has sparked an exodus of Britons to mainland Europe not seen outside of a serious economic or political crisis, a new study claims.

Researchers at the Oxford-in-Berlin partnership and the WZB Social Science Centre studied OECD and Eurostat data and find that migration to EU countries has risen by 30% since the Brexit referendum.

The data showed that migration from the UK to EU states averaged 56,832 people per year from 2008-2015, but climbed to 73,642 a year from 2016-2018.


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Even more surprising is the number of UK citizens applying for an EU member state passport with data showing a more than 500% jump across the Continent and 2,000% increase in Germany.

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The study, authored by Daniel Tetlow of Oxford-in-Berlin and WZB's Daniel Auer, compared the UK's data with 'stable migration flows' among other EU nationals and found that Brexit had been the 'dominant driver' of migration decisions by Britons since 2016.

'The study reveals the UK is facing a potential brain drain of highly-educated British citizens, who have decided to invest their futures in continental Europe,' the study's authors said in a statement.

Dr Auer said: 'These increases in numbers are of a magnitude that you would expect when a country is hit by a major economic or political crisis.'

Tetlow added: 'We're observing a new social migration phenomenon and a redefining of what it means to be British-European.

'In 2019, Brits came in just behind Turks in numbers receiving German citizenship – way ahead of Poles, Romanians, Iraqis or Syrians, whom you might otherwise expect to be more eagerly applying for German/EU citizenship.'

Additional data from Britons in Germany revealed they had shown 'increased levels of risk-taking and impulsivity' in reaction to Brexit, with 57% of interviewees reporting taking a 'big risk' with their move, compared with just 24% pre-referendum.

A majority of respondents had also agreed to a pay cut or wage freeze as part of their decision to leave Britain, whereas prior to the referendum the majority received a pay rise.

One interviewee, a British IT worker who moved his family to Europe in October 2019, said: 'I have still not found work, which is not what I expected […] The cost of the move in personal and financial terms is always difficult to foresee, and I'm starting to wonder if I underestimated the risk involved.'

The largest rise in migration was to Spain, with France ranking second.

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