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The puzzle of how many Brits abroad there really are



  Men who look at the sea in Spain

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The phrase "English abroad" often evokes images of retired people enjoying the sun. But reality is much more complex and even something enigma.

Official figures suggest that there are about three quarters of a million British citizens living in the EU and that the majority are not retired but workers ̵

1; many of them young

Other estimates put the number much more top

The possibility is raised that we do not know how many people there are whose lives abroad will be influenced by Brexit – or who they are.

However, we know that many are worried about the future.

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Putting a number in the United Kingdom diaspora means using census and registration data from the countries in which they live.

The most recent official figures suggest that 784,900 British citizens live in EU countries, excluding the UK itself and Ireland.

Published by the Office for National Statistics, show that almost three quarters have 64 or less. Seven out of ten live in Spain, France and Germany.

But these figures only count those who have been in a country for more than 12 months.

Those who live and work abroad for a relatively short period of time – often younger workers – are underestimated. Many are seasonal workers, people with short-term contracts and students studying abroad.

Even those established abroad for a longer period may be lost, as registration is not always mandatory. For example, an official of the British consulate in Spain said that there were "tens of thousands at least under the radar".

Finding a precise figure for the true number of UK citizens in Europe is difficult, but it could be 1 million to 2.25 million. This includes estimates for temporary residents, those currently not registered and for double citizens

Citizens' rights after the Brexit agreement being withdrawn

  • If the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May is accepted, citizens' rights will remain unchanged until the end of 2020
  • Since 2021, in the context of the current plan of the British government, the citizens of the EU in the United Kingdom will be able to remain if they have achieved status
  • Similar schemes are expected to be put in place in the EU countries for the citizens of the United Kingdom [19659020] If there is no agreement, the British and other governments EU countries say they will ensure that citizens already in their countries can stay

Source: withdrawal agreement – what does it all mean

Work and pay

The other problem with official statistics say that do not tell us a lot about who the ingles are yes in Europe.

Knowing more about their education, the jobs they hold and their income could help us understand more about their lives abroad – and how they could be influenced by Brexit.

We tried to learn more through the BrExpats research project.

Interviews with more than 200 UK citizens in France and Spain were made and responses to short polls collected by a similar number.

It is not surprising that those we spoke to work in a wide variety of roles: from tourism to teaching English, to banking and higher education.

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Crossing borders

Although the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU says that those residing legally in another Member State of the & # 39; EU on December 31, 2020 will have their rights confirmed, many are nervous.

For example, there have been concerns among some on fixed-term contracts that come to an end before they qualify for permanent legal status. Some were worried that without status as EU citizens, no employer would have brought them forward.

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One area in which this is a particular problem is academic research, as it is common for researchers to move to Europe with two- or three-year contracts. It is also difficult to demonstrate a permanent residence for those who are in hospitality and tourism, a seasonal work sector that requires high levels of flexibility from the workers.

And we do not know how many workers are dependent traveling across EU borders for their work. This could be a problem for those who do jobs that bring them to more than one country.

Of course, all these concerns take on a new dimension if the agreement on Brexit is rejected and the United Kingdom leaves the EU without an agreement.

The European Commission has urged its 27 remaining member states to adopt a "generous" approach to the rights of residence of British citizens in the case of Brexit without agreement ", provided that this approach is reciprocated by the United Kingdom". [19659005] However, concerns have been expressed about the way these agreements will be put in place and the documents issued by 29 March, when the United Kingdom is due to leave.

Some countries have already announced plans:

  • British citizens of the Netherlands can apply for a temporary residence by March 29 and a permit of stay at a later date
  • Germany exempts UK citizens from the 1957 obligation to have a residence permit for three months in the event of non-agreement
  • Spain states that the rights of 300,000 British citizens are safe, provided that it is offered to Spaniards in the United Kingdom [19659020] France will guarantee the rights of residence, employment and well-being of the 160,000 residents of the United Kingdom, if French expatriates get the same guarantees

The British government claims that it will protect the rights of EU citizens who have made their homes in the UK and expects 3.5 million applications.

Little impact

So these are some of the circumstances in which the working-age Britons living in Europe are.

Their lives have been made possible by their rights to freedom of movement, but many now wonder if they will be able to stay once the United Kingdom leaves.

But there is a turning point here. Many of these Britons are used to labor markets that require them to be resourceful and flexible.

Some of those we talked about for the BrExpats project seem to be quite optimistic about the future – believing that they can adapt to the circumstances of Brexit.

But the one thing everyone is waiting for is a little more certain about exactly what the UK's exit from the EU means to them.


About this piece

This piece of analysis was commissioned by the BBC by an expert working for an external organization.

Dr. Michaela Benson is Project BrExpats leader at Goldsmiths, University of London. The project is funded by the United Kingdom in a changing Europe.


By Duncan Walker


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