In recent years the United Kingdom has evolved into an attractive place for working and living for many citizens of the European Union.
In the course of the discourse on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, the residence rights of EU citizens have been and remain in sharp focus of negotiations and public interest.
The Withdrawal Agreement enshrines the preservation of the rights of EU citizens who have moved their place of residence to the United Kingdom based on one of the fundamental rights of the European Union, the free movement of persons.
Starting from 2021 new rules will apply when living and working in the United Kingdom. Citizens of the European Union may already submit an application under the EU Settlement Scheme allowing them to be able to live and work in the United Kingdom after 30th of June 2021. Depending on the duration of their residence in the United Kingdom before Brexit, EU citizens will be granted a settled respectively pre-settled status reflecting different residence and citizenship-related rights.
On 1st of January 2018 (last available data – data as of 1st of January 2019 will become available in March 2020) around 3.86 million people from other EU member states (thereof 52% women) lived in the United Kingdom, between 2014 and 2018 alone the number of EU citizens increased by 47%.
Over one million citizens from Poland, 416,000 from Romania, 300,000 Italians, and 185,000 Spanish live in the United Kingdom
In 2017 the number of Polish citizens already exceeded one million and reached almost 1.033 million in 2018 (+38% compared with 2014). Residents with Spanish citizenship doubled to 185,000, the number of Italian citizens grew by 120% to around 300,000, and the number of Romanians at 416,000 was 200% higher than 2014.
The majority of EU citizens who left their home country live and work in the Federal Republic of Germany (24% respectively 4.2m) and the United Kingdom (22% respectively 3.86m); 84% of mobile Irish labour have their main place of residence in the United Kingdom followed by 40% of Polish, 18% of Italian and 12% of Romanian expats.
Amongst the 3.86 million EU citizens in the United Kingdom around 2.8m are between 20 and 64 years old.
77% of EU citizens aged between 20 and 64 years residing in another EU member state also work there.
Looking across the age group of 20 to 64 year olds, the very high employment rates of mobile labour indicate that employment is indeed a major reason for staying in another EU member state: in 2018 the annual average of these were 82.2% for Polish citizens, 80.6% for Irish citizens and 72.3% for Romanians (EU citizen average was 77.1%).
Employment rate of EU citizens from other member states in the United Kingdom clearly above the average
The 2018 annual average proportion of 20 to 64 year-old employed persons in the resident population of this age group (employment rate) was 78.7%. The employment rate of EU citizens from other member states is however significantly higher at 86.2%. The highest level of completed educational training in particular reflects major differences between nationals and foreigners of different origin.
2018 annual average unemployment rate of EU citizens was at 3.3% clearly below the unemployment rate of UK citizens (3.9%)
The 2018 annual average unemployment rate was 4% in the United Kingdom. The unemployment rate of non-EU citizens was 6.9%, EU citizens 3.3%, and citizens of the United Kingdom 3.9%.
Around 850,000 UK citizens live in another EU member state
Brexit clearly not only affects EU citizens residing in the United Kingdom but also has relevance for British citizens living in another EU member state. Of the around 850,000 UK citizens living in another EU member state (34% in Spain and 17% in France) only 420,000 are in the age group between 20 and 64, with their employment rate lying at 69.4%. Around 185,000 British citizens residing in another EU member state who are 65 years old or older will hopefully still enjoy many good years of retirement, and often in countries with far better weather.