Mapping EU citizens in the UK: A changing profile? From 1980s to the EU referendum

New Eurochildren report finds large variation in geographical distribution of EU-born UK residents at time of Brexit referendum.

Download Eurochildren Research Brief No. 3

The Research Brief, ‘Mapping EU citizens in the UK: A changing profile?’, published today by the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS), finds that at the time of the Brexit referendum, EU-born UK residents, who overall accounted for roughly 5% of the UK population, comprised between 0.7% and 25.8% of the resident population in local areas, with geographical distribution concentrated around London, the South East, and the East.

june-2016-estimates-eui-prop-all-w-sco-outline-no-border-v3-colourblind.jpg
Figure 11 EU-born as share of all residents in Local Authority, including Scotland areas, 2016 estimates. Source: 2016 Estimates; 2011 Census boundary data (Office for National Statistics, 2017b; Office for National Statistics et al., n.d.) Note: Some areas do not have information because of low numbers (missing estimates or estimates to 0); numbers for Northern Ireland are only available at the country level.See statement at beginning of document for copyright statements.

Over forty years of EU membership Britain has seen the population of resident EU nationals rising from 1.8% in 1981 to roughly 5% at the time of the EU referendum in 2016, an analysis based on forty years of UK data reveals.

The Eurochildren report uses official statistics to provide a historical overview of EU nationals in the UK since the early 1980s until the period around the EU Referendum in June 2016, focussing on the national picture as well as lower geographical areas.

The report shows that, from 1981 to 2001, the share of EC/EU nationals within the population and their geographical location remained relatively stable, with about a third living in/around London.

The major change to the magnitude and distribution of EU nationals in the UK came after the 2004 Accession of New Member States (e.g. Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Cyprus, and Malta). The report reveals this change was unevenly distributed among local areas.

At the time of the Brexit referendum, the geographical distribution of EU nationals in the UK mirrored that of 2011, with most EU nationals living close to big urban centres. The report however shows also marked differences in the patterns of settlement between EU14 (old EU member states) and EU10 (EU8 plus Romania and Bulgaria).

Dr Laurence Lessard-Phillips, main author of the report and Research Fellow at IRiS, said:

‘EU nationals have lived in the UK for a long time. We wanted to explore how British membership to the EU has transformed this presence, looking in more finite geographical detail  and in a historical perspective, to start seeing where, and who, may be affected by Brexit’.

The report offers a historical perspective on the evolution of the population of EU nationals residing in the UK highlights which reveals the legacy of forty years of EU membership on the demographic makeup of the UK.

Dr Nando Sigona, Director of the Eurochildren study and Deputy Director of IRIS said:

‘Since joining the EU, the population of EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals on the continent, has increased substantially from 1.8% in 1981 to roughly 5% in 2016’.

‘We now have second, third and even fourth generation UK-born descendants of EU citizens. This population is mostly absent in the public debate on Brexit. It is important that their voice is included in the public conversation on the consequences of Brexit on on British families and society.’

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