What is it about?
A pioneering collaboration between Oxford in Berlin and WZB (Berlin Social Science Center) analysing the influence of ‘collective uncertainty’ due to Brexit, on UK – EU migration. The study reveals that the Brexit referendum sparked major changes in migration decisions equivalent to the impact of a serious economic or political crisis.
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Why is it important?
This study is the first of its kind to look at the impact of Brexit on migration flows at a pan-European level and and reveals that Brexit was by far the most dominant driver of migration decisions since 2016. The seismic shift in UK citizens obtaining EU member state passports provides further evidence that an increasing number of UK immigrants are making long-term migration decisions in order to protect themselves from some of the most negative effects of Brexit on their lives. With a combined approach taking a quantitative analysis of official migration statistics, along with in-depth qualitative interviews across all 16 German states, the study shows distinct structural changes in migration and naturalisation patterns of migrating UK citizens since the Brexit referendum vote – in contrast to stable migration flows of other EU nationals over the same period. The study reveals that the UK is facing a potential brain drain, losing the capacity and economic contribution of a fast increasing number of British citizens, many of whom are highly educated and highly skilled and have decided to invest their futures in continental Europe for the long term. The study concludes that ‘collective uncertainty’, triggered by Brexit, was and still remains powerful enough to alter migratory behaviour at scales comparable to the impact of a large scale economic shock. The decision made by the UK to leave the European Union is equivalent to an indiscriminate exogenous event that affects all British citizens in the EU and many in the UK, independent of whether or not they supported Brexit. And this matters because rigorous analysis is essential to an accurate understanding of the Brexit-induced migration patterns and the motivations driving populations that stand to be further impacted after the Brexit Transition period ends on December 31st 2020. If demonstration were needed of the dangers that poor quality data brings to policy making, the British Government’s Office of National Statistics acknowledged in 2019 that their own published migration figures, used to instruct British migration policy over the last decade, have not been fit for purpose downgrading the estimate of their net migration data to “experimental” status. analysis of UK to EU migration and naturalisation patterns.
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This page is a summary of: Brexit, uncertainty, and migration decisions, International Migration, November 2022, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/imig.13079.
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