New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
  2. Brexit
26 February 2018updated 04 Oct 2023 10:04am

Yes, “Brexodus” is real. Get used to it

It's not that every single European in the UK is leaving. It's just that a lot of them are, with fewer coming in.

By Pauline Bock

It was one of many predictions of the Remain referendum campaign, and like the others it has been vastly overlooked by Brexiteers: EU citizens are leaving the UK. “Brexodus” is real, it’s happening right now, and it shouldn’t be surprising.

The latest UK migration figures show that net migration fell by 29,000 between September 2016 and September 2017. In 2015-16, net migration of EU citizens was estimated at 189,000. In 2016-17, this fell to 107,000, the lowest since 2012. In the year after the referendum, the number of EU citizens returning to their home country doubled, from 21,000 to 43,000: a 95 per cent increase.

The gap their departures are leaving in public services is starting to show. Roughly 62,000 Europeans work for the NHS, which is already suffering of a critical staff shortage during the crisis of the winter months. Between the Brexit vote and the autumn of 2017, nearly 10,000 EU workers had already left the NHS.

British universities have reported a 19 per cent increase in departures of European staff between 2016 and 2017. In the year that followed the referendum, 230 EU academics left the University of Oxford (compared to 171 the year before); King’s College lost 139 members of staff from the EU (compared to 108 the previous year); and the University of Cambridge saw 173 EU staff resignations (compared to 153).

With EU citizens accounting for 25 per cent of chefs and 75 per cent of waiting staff in UK restaurants, the British hospitality fears a staff shortage after Brexit. Last summer, British farmers saw a 17 per cent drop of EU seasonal workers: there were more than 1,500 unfilled vacancies in British farms during the month of May 2017 alone.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

A study from UCL has found that EU citizens are worth £20bn to the UK’s public finances. But since Brexit, more than half of British companies have reported that they are struggling to recruit the EU staff they need.

“Brexodus” doesn’t mean that every single European in the UK is leaving. It just means that a lot of them are, with fewer coming in. And it’s just starting: 47 per cent of highly skilled EU workers (yes, the ones the British government would ideally like to keep here) are considering leaving the country within the next five years.

Not all EU citizens want to leave. Some are waiting to see what comes out of the Brexit negotiations; some are moving somewhere else because of their jobs; some refuse to be pushed to the door. But those who have left are unlikely to return. The three million EU citizens in the UK are lost, confused, sad, angry, or all the above.

You would be, too, if you woke up one day in a country you thought was home and discovered that an election you didn’t have a vote in had proved you wrong. In the 20 months since the referendum, EU citizens have been used as bargaining chips by the UK government; been verbally and sometimes physically abused, been wrongly sent deportation letters, told they may have to leave the country after Brexit, that they would be listed by their employers, fingerprinted, have applied to the UK’s permanent residency scheme only to be told it would be void after Brexit, been discriminated against in the job and housing markets, been told again and again by the government that the UK wants them to stay without being provided with any tangible evidence that their lives would not change. They have seen amendments protecting their rights being defeated in parliament and read headlines calling them and the people who dared supporting their cause “citizens of nowhere”, “enemies of the people”, “Remoaners” and worse. While all of this was happening, they have been told countless times, sometimes even by you, not to worry because “it’s not you. You will be fine.” They are your nurses and doctors and waiters and uni professors and cleaners and barmen and co-workers and neighbours and partners and friends and they are not fine.

Can you blame them?

So, yes: “Brexodus” is a thing. EU citizens are leaving the UK. And figures suggest you may want to get used to it.

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy