1. Main points

  • Around 900,000 UK citizens are long-term residents of other EU countries; the largest age group is aged 30 to 49 years.
  • Spain is host to the largest number of British citizens living in the EU (308,805); just over a third (101,045) of British citizens living in Spain are aged 65 years and over.
  • France, Ireland and Germany are also home to relatively large numbers of British citizens.
  • There is a large difference between numbers of UK born (287,600) and UK citizens (112,090) in Ireland.
  • These data count those living in the EU for 12 months or longer.
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2. Things you need to know about this release

This report seeks to establish the statistics that are available to estimate the number of British people living in the European Union (EU).

These data are not National Statistics. This report has been compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) from data collected by Eurostat based on the 2010 to 2011 round of censuses in Europe and other data from European statistical offices. These data are chosen because the method of data collection allows confident analysis at detailed levels and they are rich data, which will allow ONS to conduct further demographic analysis of British citizens living in the EU.

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3. Migration statistics - background

Migration statistics can be based on several definitions of a migrant and different definitions of migrants are useful for different purposes.

Place of birth identifies migrants as people who were born in a country other than the one they live in. The advantage of this method is that place of birth does not change and it is a clear and simple question to answer. However, it fails to include some British citizens born overseas (for example, those born to armed forces personnel stationed in Germany) or foreign nationals born in the UK.

Citizenship identifies migrants as people with a different citizenship to the country they are resident in. This can be a complex definition, as people’s citizenship can change and multiple citizenships can be held. It can also be a difficult question for migrants to answer, as citizenship may be associated with national identity rather than legal status.

"A person who moves from their country of usual residence for a period of at least 12 months" is the United Nations definition of an international migrant. It can be hard to measure. The International Passenger Survey (IPS), which is used to produce the UK’s official migration estimates, asks travellers how long they intend to stay when they arrive in the UK (or leave to go abroad). Such intentions are, of course, subject to change and the published Long-Term International Migration figures include an adjustment for this, by identifying how people’s intentions and actual behaviour compare. The census, by contrast, seeks to identify such migrants with the question: “One year ago, what was your usual address?”

Migration statistics also take different forms:

  • stocks measure how many people are resident in a country (staying for 12 months or longer) and can be broken down by country of birth or citizenship
  • flows measure how many people change their country of residence for at least one year, thus becoming long-term migrants; flows do not estimate how many migrants are present in a country at any one time, they are useful to identify changes in levels and patterns of migration

Different definitions suit different purposes. For the purposes of identifying British migrants living overseas, who may be affected by the UK exit from the EU, the most useful statistics are the stocks of British citizens.

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4. How the data are compiled

These data are published by the Eurostat Census Hub. Eurostat collected data from all of the EU1 and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states2’ 2010 to 2011 Censuses. The censuses reported here are a mixture of questionnaire censuses, register-based (administrative data) censuses and combined (register and survey) censuses. The 2011 UK Census was a questionnaire census.

In questionnaire censuses, adjustments are made to the data to account for foreign residents that may not be counted if they do not complete the census. For register censuses, adjustments are made for foreign residents that may not be registered or that are erroneously counted because they have left the country and are not deregistered on the registration system.

Although the data are 5 years old, there are several reasons why these data provide the best estimate of British citizens living in the EU:

  • they are available for all countries in the EU and EFTA
  • they are rigorously collected and verified
  • they are one of the only sources of data using the “citizenship” definition
  • they are rich data, which allow further demographic analysis of British citizens living in the EU
  • the counts measured in 2011 are not greatly different to those that exist today; where countries have more recent data, this has been checked and no major differences are apparent

All “residents” counted in this analysis have stayed, or plan to stay, in the host country for 12 months or longer. This means that short-term migrants and circular migrants (for example, repeated migration between locations, such as British citizens who spend part of the year in the EU and part of the year in the UK) are not counted. Any British citizens who spend only part of the year living in the EU are not counted in these data.

In the table of British citizens, those with multiple citizenships have one citizenship selected for Eurostat reporting. This is determined in the following order:

  1. citizenship of reporting country
  2. other EU member state citizenship
  3. non-EU member state citizenship

This means that a person with both French and British citizenship, living in France, is not counted as British in these data. This definition is relevant for identifying those citizens who do not have citizenship of another EU state to use when the UK exits the EU.

In some instances, Eurostat have not been able to collect data from a country, usually due to data confidentiality rules of individual member statistical offices. Where this is the case, ONS has sought to find an alternative source. This is clearly documented in the report.

This report includes the EFTA states, as changes to EU-UK free movement may have implications in these countries. EFTA states are not counted in the totals.

Notes for: How the data are compiled

  1. The current formation of the EU (28 countries) is used in this article. Although Croatia joined the EU in 2013, Croatia conducted an EU-standard census in 2011 as a pre-requisite for membership.
  2. The EFTA countries are Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
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5. Number of British citizens living in Europe in 2011, by age

The data show that Spain is host to the largest number of British citizens living in the EU. France, Ireland and Germany are also home to relatively large numbers of British citizens (Table 1). British citizens make up 0.2% of the population of the EU (excluding the UK) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states combined. The highest concentration of British citizens is in Cyprus, with 2.9% of the population holding only British citizenship. Similarly, 2.5% of the population of Ireland and 1.6% of the population of Malta have only British citizenship.

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6. Born in the UK and living in Europe, 2011

Country of birth is an alternative way of looking at those who have a connection to the UK (Table 3). However, it fails to include some foreign nationals born in the UK, or British nationals born abroad. It gives a less precise estimate of how many British citizens might be affected when the UK exits the EU because they do not have citizenship of another EU state to use.

For notes on these tables, please see Appendix 2.

There are some notable differences between estimates when defining migrants by country of birth and defining them by citizenship.

Table 5 shows the EU countries with the greatest difference between these 2 measures.

The number of those born in the UK and living in Ireland is more than twice the number of British citizens living in Ireland. Because of the longstanding free movement agreement between the UK and Ireland, a large number of Irish citizens are born in the UK. Many Irish nationals may have dual nationality and because they are living in Ireland, are counted as Irish citizens in these data.

There are just over 35,000 more “born in the UK” living in Italy than “British citizens” living in Italy. These may be Italians who have moved to the UK, had families and then returned to Italy. There have historically been relatively high levels of migration from Italy; this migration was at its highest in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

There are 16,000 more UK born residents of Poland than British citizens living in Poland. Under 15s account for 14,000 of these. These children are presumed to have been recently born to Polish migrants living in the UK who have since returned to live in Poland.

Belgium has a greater number of UK born migrants than it does British citizens; the difference is marked amongst those aged 65 and over. (This might be explained by the children born to Belgian refugees during the First World War.1)

Amongst those living in Spain and Germany, the number of British citizens outnumber the number of people born in the UK. For Spain, this is a small proportion of the total number; for Germany, this difference represents 17% of British citizens and is evident at all ages above 15 years old (Table 6).

Hundreds of thousands of British armed forces personnel have been stationed in Germany since the Second World War, the children of those who have stayed in Germany may account for the large difference. In Germany, up until the year 2000, being born in Germany did not confer citizenship. Instead, the parent's citizenship was given to the child, so children born to British parents would only be eligible for British citizenship. Since 2000, a child born in Germany to non-German parents is eligible for German citizenship (if one or more parents has a permanent residence permit or has lived in Germany for 8 years), so children born to British parents could have German citizenship. This may explain why the difference doesn’t exist to the same degree for those aged under 15 years.

Notes for: Born in the UK and living in Europe

  1. For more information, see these articles: War Refugees Committee: Minutes, Papers and History Cards (National Archives) and World War One: How 250,000 Belgian refugees didn't leave a trace (BBC).
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7. Age profiles by country – what are the differences?

Age data are ranked to show countries where residing British citizens are most likely to be of retirement age (Figure 1).

Of the 308,805 British citizens living in Spain, 32.7% are 65 or older and in Malta too, this is the largest age group. As well as in Spain and Malta, in Cyprus, Portugal, Greece, France and Bulgaria, most British citizens living there are aged 50 or over.

The proportion of British citizens who are aged 30 to 49 years old is greater in the Netherlands than for any other country. At 70.5%, it is likely that most of them are going for work.

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8. The United Nations “1.22 million British people live in the European Union”

To now, the United Nations’ statistics showing UK born migrants living in other EU member states have been widely used. These are from the UN publication Trends in International Migrant Stock: Migrants by destination and origin (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (2015)(Figure 2).

There are differences between these data and Eurostat Census data.

The data are for a 2015 reference point. This harmonised reference point is achieved by “ageing on” 2010 to 2011 Censuses, applying the UN’s assumptions, for example, how many UK born migrants have immigrated to and emigrated from each country. It is an estimate designed to illustrate the extent of global migration (produced for the whole world, not only the EU).

The UN uses the “country of birth” definition for these data for 25 out of 27 EU nations (for Belgium and the Czech Republic the UN uses the “foreign citizens” definition). These data will include many Irish and Polish citizens whilst not counting British citizens born overseas.

The UN data provide a high-level estimate for each country. The EU-Census data enable further analysis by other characteristics, for example, age, occupation and industry.

We believe it is better to use the more detailed census data in order to estimate the number of British citizens living abroad.

The UN “Trends in International Migrant Stock: Migrants by destination and origin” can be used to corroborate the change in the counts of UK born migrants living in the EU in the last 5 years. The time series suggests that the number of UK born migrants living in the EU has been relatively stable from 2010 to 2015 (Table 7).

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9 .Appendix 1: Notes and definitions for Tables 1 and 2, Age of British citizens living in Europe in 2011

a The Netherlands doesn’t provide census data by age to Eurostat. ONS has replaced the Eurostat data with information available online from Statistics Netherlands. The information comes from the national register and is for 2011.

b Romania does not provide this information to Eurostat. Although usually data for Romania is treated and analysed alongside Bulgaria, as the “EU2” accession countries that joined in 2007, demographically it has more similarities with the EU8 countries. In particular, the pattern of children born in the UK but living in Romania is more similar to the EU8 countries than Bulgaria. Therefore, ONS has estimated the number of British citizens living in Romania from country of birth data. Across EU8 countries there are large numbers of children born in the UK (see Table 8) who are not British citizens. The ratio between citizenship and country of birth was calculated for the 7 EU8 countries for which both pieces of information are available. This was then applied to Romania’s country of birth data to estimate citizenship.

c Lithuania does not provide these data to Eurostat and could not provide it when approached by ONS, because of confidentiality. Instead, ONS has estimated these data from country of birth data, in the same way as is estimated for Romania. See Table 8.

d The Swiss Federal Statistics Office doesn’t publish statistics on citizenship of those under 15 (Switzerland combines survey data and register data to create its census - citizenship comes from the Structural Survey, which is only asked of those aged 15 or older). Instead, ONS has taken the Swiss reports from the Swiss Populations and Household Survey of those aged under 15 who were born in the UK – 5,832 in 2015 (2011 data not available). A ratio of citizenship: country of birth is taken from the other age groups (29,026 : 35,492) and applied to the country of birth data for those under 15 (to give 4,770). The total for Switzerland includes this adjusted count.

e Liechtenstein does not provide this information because of confidentiality. Instead, ONS has used the estimate from the 2010 Trends in International Migrant Stock: Migrants by Destination and Origin (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (2015)). Note the limitations of these estimates discussed in this report. The 57 are allocated to age groups using the Switzerland age distribution, with the rationale that similar banking sectors attract similar workers).

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10 .Appendix 2: Notes and definitions for Tables 3 and 4, Age of those born in the UK and living in Europe in 2011

a The Netherlands does not provide this information because of confidentiality. Statistics Netherlands does not publish single countries of birth for migrants. Instead, ONS used the estimation from the 2010 Trends in International Migrant Stock: Migrants by Destination and Origin (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (2015)). Note the limitations of these estimates discussed in this report. The 47,297 are distributed according to the age distribution of citizenship data.

b Switzerland's EU census hub data are based on the Structural Survey, which surveys only those aged 15 or older. The Swiss Populations and Household Survey counts 5,832 0 to 15 year olds born in the UK in 2015 (2011 data not available), which are added here and added to the total.

c Liechtenstein does not provide this information because of confidentiality. Instead, ONS used the estimation from the 2010 Trends in International Migrant Stock: Migrants by Destination and Origin (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, (2015)). Note the limitations of these estimates discussed in this report. The 57 are allocated to age groups using the Switzerland age distribution, with the rationale that similar banking sectors attract similar workers).

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Contact details for this Article

Melissa Randall
pop.info@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: +44(0)1329 444661