Brexit has caused an exodus of economically productive people from the UK to countries in the European Union on a scale that would normally only be expected following a major economic or political crisis, according to a detailed new study.
Using a combination of official statistics in the EU and in-depth interviews with people living in Germany, the study found huge changes in the migration patterns of UK citizens since the 2016 referendum, which contrast with those who are largely stable among nationals of the remaining 27 EU states. in the block.
The report, a collaboration between the Oxford in Berlin Research Partnership – a project made up of the University of Oxford and four Berlin institutions – and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, also found a “seismic shift” in the number of citizens Britons already living abroad and having decided to go one step further by obtaining passports from EU member states since 2016, showing how Britain’s vote to leave the EU has prompted many to make long-term decisions.
The study shows that migration from the UK to EU countries has increased by around 30% compared to pre-Brexit figures. Britons living in other EU countries who have decided to obtain passports from EU member states as well as their UK passports have increased by over 500% overall and by 2000% in Germany.
Dr Daniel Auer, co-author of the report, said: “These increases in numbers are of a magnitude you would expect when a country is hit by a major economic or political crisis.”
Additionally, the study found that British migrants are among the most educated and skilled of any country, with one of the highest average net income rates, suggesting that Brexit has started to drain regularly the most talented and productive people to the continent.
In Germany, British migrants were among the highest earners, bringing in on average € 2,812 per month in 2019, just behind those from Austria and the United States.
There are currently around 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EU, of which between 120,000 and 150,000 are in Germany. In the four years following the Brexit referendum, 31,600 Britons obtained dual British / German citizenship: 2019 saw 14,600 naturalizations compared to 622 in 2015.
About half of all British citizens living in Germany will have dual British / German citizenship by the end of 2020, the report says.
Interviews with British citizens living and working in Germany have shown that Brexit has prepared people to take levels of risk they would not have considered before.
A British academic in his 40s, married with a young family – and who emigrated in July 2016 – told researchers: ‘The referendum took place and we immediately changed our mind about buying a house in Bristol . Our entire emigration decision depended on the outcome of the referendum.
The majority of those interviewed who left agreed to a pay cut or pay freeze as part of their decision. Some have struggled to find a job. “I still haven’t found a job, which isn’t what I expected […] The cost of the move in personal and financial terms is always difficult to predict, and I’m starting to wonder if I’ve underestimated the risk involved, ”said a British IT specialist who emigrated in October 2019 with his wife and three children.
Co-author Daniel Tetlow added: “We are seeing a new phenomenon of social migration and a redefinition of what it means to be British-European. In 2019, the British came just behind Turks in numbers receiving German citizenship – well ahead of Poles, Romanians, Iraqis or Syrians, who would otherwise be expected to apply more ardently for German / European citizenship.