Sharp rise in EU citizen departures after Brexit vote

The UK government has promised to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. But anxiety reigns. [Danny Howard/Flickr]

The number of EU nationals leaving the UK rose sharply to 122,000 people in the 12 months leading up to the end of March, in the biggest increase in a decade, after the country voted to leave the European Union.

The figure was 33,000 higher than the previous year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Thursday (24 August).

The results “indicate that the EU referendum result may be influencing people’s decision to migrate into and out of the UK,” said Nicola White, head of international migration statistics at the ONS.

Britain voted to leave the European Union in a June 2016 referendum, after a campaign in which reducing immigration from the EU was a key issue.

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Britain’s interior ministry sent deportation warnings to around 100 EU citizens by mistake, it emerged on Wednesday (23 August), an incident that campaigners said would increase fears among Europeans living in Britain.

There was a particularly sharp rise, of 17,000 departures of citizens from eight of the countries which joined the European Union in 2004 — Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The increase was lower — 8,000 — for citizens of Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU in 2007.

There was also a 19,000 decrease in immigration from the EU to 248,000 people over the same period.

Jonathan Portes, a professor at King’s College, London, said latest statistics “at least in part” reflected the impact of the Brexit vote.

The UK and the European Union are in negotiations over the future status of the estimated 3.2 million European nationals living in Britain and around a million British citizens living in the EU.

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