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'Uncertainty reigns' for UK workers in EU

15 January 2019

Despite a lack of official statistics, research suggests significant numbers of mobile young British expats working across Europe with no clarity as to their long term status.

With Brexit little more than two months away, nobody still really knows how many British expats live and work in the European Union, according to a London-based academic.

No clear statistics on how many UK citizens live in other EU countries

Dr Michaela Benson, research leader for the BrExpats project at Goldsmiths, University of London, says that the official Whitehall estimate of 784,900 UK citizens living in other EU countries (excluding Ireland) might be only about a third of the true total. And, contrary to commonly-held beliefs, the majority are not retirees but workers, many of them young.

In an article for the BBC website, Dr Benson says the Office for National Statistics estimate of Brits abroad shows nearly three-quarters are aged 64 or below, with 70 per cent living in Spain, France and Germany.

Three-quarters of EU Brit expats aged 64 or below with majority in Spain, France and Germany

“But these figures only count those who have been in a country for more than 12 months,” she says. “Those living and working overseas for a relatively short period of time - often younger workers - are undercounted. Many are seasonal workers, people on short-term contracts and students studying abroad.

“Even those settled abroad for a longer time can be missed, as registration is not always compulsory. For example, an official at the UK consulate in Spain said there were ‘tens of thousands at least under the radar’.”

Dr Benson says that arriving at an accurate figure “is difficult” but, including temporary residents, those currently not registered and dual nationals, the actual total could be anywhere between a million and 2.25 million.


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