The recent UK government defeat on its Brexit bill by the House of Lords based on the demand that ministers should guarantee EU nationals’ right to stay in the UK after Brexit was just the latest tale in the debate about EU migration and the United Kingdom’s role in it. The topic of migrants in the UK was an important element of the EU referendum campaigns in 2016 which led to the decision to leave the European Union. The government’s position sees the question of the rights of EU migrants as part of the upcoming negotiations with the EU where also the rights of UK citizens living in the European Unions need to be agreed. In terms of absolute numbers, this is a much smaller share of affected people (approximately 1.2 million UK citizens are estimated to live in other EU countries) compared to other EU citizens living in the UK (estimated at around 3.2 million). The following two maps show these numbers in comparison in their geographical dimension. Using the most recent annual estimates (published in late 2016 by the ONS and further data from the UN) the cartograms show the countries of the EU (excluding the UK) distorted by the number of UK citizens who are living in another EU country (left map) and by the number of other EU citizens who are living in the UK. The countries are shaded by their ratio between the number of UK migrants in the EU and the number of other EU migrants in the UK:
These maps show, that in absolute numbers the largest number of British migrants in other EU countries live in Spain (309,000), followed by Ireland (255,000), France (185,000), Germany (103,000) and Italy (65,000). On the other side, Polish citizens are the largest migrant group from the EU living in the UK (approximately 916,000), followed by Irish (332,000), Romanian (233,000), Portugese (219,000) and Italian (192,000) citizens.
Looking at the migration flows between the UK and individual EU countries in relative terms, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Spain, France and Belgium are those countries that take significantly larger shares of UK citizen that those who move from there to the UK, while on the other end the UK is more attractive for citizen from Latvia, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland than it is for UK citizens who moved there.
It is important to keep in mind that these numbers are estimates which contain uncertainties since the UK has no population register. The numbers are also quite dynamic, and not least the decision to leave the European Union could lead to changing trends in migration flows between the UK and the rest of the EU.
The following video from the Oxford Migration Observatory explains the underlying numbers that were used in the above maps: