'Highly-educated' Britons lead Brexit exodus

UK faces a potential brain drain after a 500% increase in the number of Britons granted citizenship in an EU state.

Berlin skyline

Berlin skyline

There has been a 30% surge in the number of Britons emigrating to EU27 countries since the Brexit referendum, according a joint Anglo-German study published on Tuesday.Half of those who have quit the UK made up their minds to do so in the three months immediately after the 2016 referendum, according to the study by Oxford–in-Berlin - a research partnership between Oxford University and four German universities - and the WZB Social Sciences Centre in Berlin.

Oxford University: the UK faces a "potential brain drain"

"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," Oxford University said in a statement.Based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the EU statistics agency Eurostat, the research found that while migration from Britain to EU27 states averaged 56,832 people a year between 2008-15, it has grown to 73,642 a year since the referendum.“These increases in numbers are of a magnitude that you would expect when a country is hit by a major economic or political crisis,” said Daniel Auer, a WZB researcher and co-author of the report.The research also revealed a 500% increase in the number of UK migrants who were subsequently accepted for citizenship in an EU state, with the increase in Germany hitting 2,000%, with 31,600 Britons naturalising there between 2016-19.

Freedom of movement ends 31 December 2020

With freedom of movement ending when the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, Britons will no longer be able to work visa-free within the EU unless they take out citizenship in their host country.In Germany, for instance, only 622 Britons obtained nationality in 2015. The figure rose to 14,600 last year, with the total of Britons getting nationality second only to the number of Turks and well ahead of the number of Poles, Romanians, Iraqis or Syrians.According to the study, the number of UK citizens obtaining EU member state passports "provides evidence that an increasing number of UK immigrants are making long-term migration decisions to protect themselves from some of the negative effects of Brexit".

Pride in a new British-European identity

Co-author Daniel Tetlow, of Oxford-in-Berlin, commented, "We’re observing a new social migration phenomena and a redefining of what it means to be British-European."The study found the biggest rise in migration was to Spain, where an estimated 380,000 British nationals live and where the average annual number of UK registrations increased from 2,300 in 2015 to 21,250 between 2016-18. France came second on the list, with pre-referendum averages of 500 registrations a year increasing to 5,000 after the Brexit vote.Mr Tetlow said an unexpected outcome of research among UK citizens in Germany was the large number who had made a greater commitment to integrate or socially embed in their local communities as a direct result of Brexit."The study found in many respondents a commitment to language learning and local community work, along with a pride in a new British-European identity," he said.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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