Bulgarians, Romanians Keep Flocking to UK despite Brexit Vote, Poles Don’t

A police officer walks past a flag left by protesters outside the Port of Dover in Dover, Kent, Britain, 27 September 2014. Photo: Will Oliver/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

  • Bulgarians and Romanians keep immigrating to Britain in higher numbers unlike citizens of other former communist EU members
  • Overall effect of the June 2016 Brexit referendum still “too early” to be estimated
  • Net migration to the UK remains almost thrice higher than May Cabinet’s goal


The number of Bulgarians and Romanians who have immigrated to the Britain has reached record levels in recent months even though in June 2016, the British voters supported the UK’s exit from the European Union, the so called Brexit.

At the same time, however, immigration to Britain from the other former communist EU member states in Eastern Europe such as Poland has subsided, the UK Office for National Statistics revealed in a report.

EU2 vs. EU8 in Post-Brexit Referendum UK

A total of 74,000 EU citizens from Bulgaria and Romania (known with the acronym EU2 – the two Balkan countries joined the EU together in 2007) moved to the UK in the year between September 2015 and September 2016, the ONS data showed.

This is 19,000 more than in the preceding period (up from 55,000), or a 35% increase year-on-year, a figure described by the British statistical service as “the highest estimate recorded”.

While the ONS noted that it was “too early” to analyze the effect of the Brexit vote on immigration from the EU, the measured period does include the three months of the 2016 summer following the UK referendum on leaving the European Union.
Immigration was one of the main problems leading to the Brexit referendum, and was supposedly the issue which tipped the scales in favor of a the Leave vote.

Even though immigration from Bulgaria and Romania to the UK continued to rise from fall 2015 to fall 2016, immigration from the other former Communist Bloc countries which are members of the EU – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Hungary (known as the “Ascension 8” or EU8 countries) actually declined.

It went down to 58,000 in the year before September 2016, from 68,000 the previous year, a decrease of 15%

“This is the first release to contain long-term international migration estimates including three months of data following the EU referendum,“ said Nicola White, Head of International Migration Statistics, Office for National Statistics.

“Although we have seen a fall in net migration of EU8 citizens there have been continued increases in immigration from Romania and Bulgaria, so it is too early to say what effect the referendum result has had on long-term international migration, he added.

Overall: Thrice as High as Tory Goal

The British statistical service also reported that the UK’s net long-term international migration was estimated to be +273,000 in the year ending in September 2016, which is 49,000 fewer, a change that is “not statistically significant”.

It comprised +165,000 EU citizens, +164,000 non-EU citizens and -56,000 British citizens.

The figure is almost thrice as high as the goal of 100,000 immigrants to the UK per year set by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May.

Protesters hold banners during a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 30 January 2017, in a pro-immigration anti-Trump rally. Photo: EPA

Overall immigration to the UK was estimated to be 596,000 in the year ending in September 2016, a decrease of 23,000 (“not statistically significant”) from the year ending September 2015.

It comprised 268,000 EU citizens, 257,000 non-EU citizens and 71,000 British citizens.

“Although net migration in the year to September 2016 has not seen a statistically significant change, we have seen a statistically significant decrease in net migration among EU8 citizens and non-EU citizens from Africa, the Americas and Oceania,“ White said.

“There has been a statistically significant decrease in non-EU long-term students immigrating to the UK, while a small increase was seen in the number of study visas issued. It is too early to tell if this is an indication of a long-term trend,” he elaborated.

Earlier this week, a campaign entitled “One Day without Us” sought to raise awareness that foreign born-workers contribute 4% of the UK’s daily GDP.

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