European Union

Which EU country has the largest number of citizens living overseas?

Figures show the UK has more citizens living overseas than any other EU nation. Image: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Keith Breene
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Europe is a key topic at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2017. Watch the session on 'Which Europe Now?' here.

Immigration is the subject of intense debate in many European countries and is thought to have been a key issue in the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

While there has been much media coverage of the number of people moving to the UK, there has been relatively little attention paid to the number of Brits moving overseas.

In fact the UK has more citizens living overseas than any other European nation – 4.9 million British people live in other countries around the world.

 EU Member states and the number of citizens living outside their home country
Image:; U.N. Population Division. Includes all citizens living anywhere in the world

The European picture

When the data is broken down to show the number of EU citizens living in other EU countries, a slightly different picture emerges.

The UK ranks number 5, with Poland, Romania, Germany and Italy all having more citizens outside their own borders but within Europe.

 Expats across the EU
Image:; UN 2015 data

In fact Poland has nearly three times the number of citizens living elsewhere in the EU than the UK does.

Where do Brits go in Europe?

A breakdown of the number of UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU shows that Spain and Ireland are the favoured destinations.

 Brits abroad in the EU
Image:; UN 2015 data

France and Germany are the other two countries which are home to more than 50,000 UK nationals.

Both EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU face an uncertain future, with no firm decision yet taken on residency rights when Brexit is enacted.

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