Brexit, net migration and Eurochildren

The UK’s Office for National Statistics has released its quarterly update on net migration. This time the figure, 248,000, the lowest level for nearly three years, is ‘favourable’ for the government. But what does ‘favourable’ really mean? Theresa May’s decision to keep net migration in the Tory manifesto as the benchmarch for the success or failure of her immigration policy has been widely criticised on several grounds, not least because emigration and immigration behaviours depend on multiple factors beyond the reach of immigration policy, and a decline of immigration is likely to impact negatively on the British economy – an ‘economically illiterate’ target according to the former chancellor George Osborne. But she stuck to it nonetheless, perhaps anticipating the adrenaline boost to her ‘tough on immigration’ credentials the ONS latest release was going to deliver a few days before the election. Apparently, there are still one or two UKIP supporters who haven’t decided to vote for her.
According to ONS data, the drop in the UK net migration figure is partly due to 25,000 fewer Poles and other eastern Europeans coming to work in Britain, possibly put off by the referendum vote, and a 16,000 rise in the number of them leaving. Uncertainty over their future legal status in Britain has also triggered a rise in the number of EU nationals and their family members applying to the Home Office for permanent residence and British citizenship. Despite political and media focus has been on EU8 and EU2 nationals, EU15 nationals make 53% of current immigration from the EU. A surge in citizenship applications and grants for Italian, Spanish, German and French nationals (see table) is a reminder of how the consequences of Brexit are felt more widely among EU nationals.

Citizenship grants by previous country of nationality (Source: Home Office, 2017)


The focus on recent arrivals, particularly from eastern Europe, has overshadowed recent and past immigration from older EU member states and, more generally, the fact that the UK has been a member of the European Union for 40 years. Throughout that time, there has been intermingling of people and institutions which can be most clearly seen in the growing number of bi- and mixed-nationality EU families in the UK and their children,  many of whom were born in the UK and holding a British passport. This is a growing, and yet understudied and underreported, segment of British society. In a post-EU referendum context, where the rhetoric about curbing EU immigration has permeated political, media, and popular discourses, producing a stark ‘us and them’ narrative, the question left unasked and unanswered is what are the human and emotional costs of this abrupt geopolitical shift if ‘us and them’ are the same? Through the study of EU families and their children and their experience and responses to Brexit, a University of Birmingham research team with the collaboration of The 3 Million Forum and Migrant Voice is drawing a profile of the population of UK- and EU-born children of EU nationals in the UK, mapping the biopolitics and legacy of EU membership in Britain and examining how the emergence of a new politics of belonging reconfigures discursively and legally who belongs to a post-EU Britain.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Traute Wilde says:

    I am a German citizen in my 70th, I have lived, worked, paid taxes in the UK over 50years. I am married to an English man, have 2 grown up children — both hold dual nationality. As I am retired and female it is very difficult for me to provide the necessary documentation. I consider these requirements to be ageist and anti— women. Both my husband and I feel I must try and get dual nationality now while the UK is still in the EU for peace of mind. Once the UK leaves the EU eligibility to dual nationality will be lost in my case. This has caused tremendous stress and strain not to speak of the expense. We have cancelled our Golden Wedding Anniversary Party to deal with this. For every EU citizen there will be an equal number if not more of UK citizen who are also affected by Brexit. I consider the Brexiteers to be reckless.


    1. Nando Sigona says:

      Thanks a lot for your message Traute. Would you be available for an interview on your story either in person or via Skype?


      1. Traute Wilde says:

        I am on skype but haven‘t used it for a long time. Can we do it on face time?


      2. Traute Wilde says:

        Our whole family are a combination of „them and us“. My son, my daughter (PhD) and my son in law who is also German are all Oxford graduates. Our son who is an excellent teacher left the UK over a decade ago because he felt the educational system in the UK is broken and also because his ex—wife who is Tanzanian but had been to school in the UK had been exposed to racism here.

        Our daughter and family left last year for Germany where our son in law has been offered an exciting job. As academics they felt that future research projects would suffer from lack of funding and not being part of the EU. They also thought that our grandchildren would have a brighter future being part of the EU community. The transition was not easy in particular for the children who had to cope with change of language and school system. They also missed their friends. We all agree in the long term they have made the right move. Many of their academic friends are considering similar moves.

        Our family are committed Europeans. In Germany the EU has never just been considered as an Economic Union but as a coming together of European countries to avoid another World War. My father and my father in law fought on opposite sides during the war. My husband and I consider ourselves as part of „truth and reconciliation „. The rising hostility to other European nations in the UK is alarming to us. I didn‘t experience that 50 years ago. Britain seems to be happy to open its doors to the Gobal Criminals with 2millions to spare but not to your honest Polish plumber. I was saddened to read that the MPs voted against all EU citizens becoming UK residents after Brexit and we all have to go through the excruciating application process. I am once again treated as an “Alien”.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nando Sigona says:

    Hello Traute, if you send me an email we can arrange a convenient time for the interview. My email is


  3. Rafael Benato says:

    I am an Italian passport holder and my wife is Polish. Our son was born in the UK in 2003 and holds a British passport. We always thought his situation was safe but apparently this is not the case.
    This is seriously concerning news to us.
    How can we follow this story development and further studies?
    Thank you very much


  4. Zuzanna says:

    My husband is Irish and I’m Polish. Children have both Polish and Irish citizenship. I believe their rights as Irish citizens in the UK are not under threat? I hope that’s the case and that they do not need British citizenship with their Irish passports.


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