Some comforting words recently came from the Home Office: “No EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point we leave the EU. EU citizens will have at least two years to regularise their status.”
Although in part vague, it is at least reassuring for those Europeans who have not acquired Permanent Residence or who will not acquire it in time for Brexit. (We hope and assume that “EU citizens” includes EEA and Swiss citizens.)
But, on the other hand, some Europeans may nonetheless be leaving the UK because of Brexit. This has had the useful effect of creating a new word, “Brexodus”, which is now appearing in journalistic articles and, we confidently expect, will eventually appear in the Oxford English dictionary.
But is Brexodus real? There has certainly been some anecdotal evidence about it. Some Europeans say that they don’t really feel wanted in the UK any longer and, for that reason, they are thinking of returning home.
Official figures from the ONS (the Office for National Statistics) seem to demonstrate some reality to this. The number of EU migrants leaving the UK in the past year has risen by 33,000 to 122,000, the highest outflow for several years. This isn’t nearly enough to turn the net migration figure (ie the number of migrants leaving the UK subtracted from the number coming to the UK) from a positive value to a negative one but it may be statistically significant.
Net migration over the past year is still as high as 246,000, so the Government is not yet anywhere near its target – or, perhaps more correctly, aspiration – of less than 100,000, but nonetheless the Government sees it as a step in the right direction.