Freedom of movement: how many Brits were up for living and working in the EU anyway?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
November 16, 2017, 9:04 AM GMT+0

YouGov asks 12,000 Britons which, if any, countries they would consider living and/or working in

Freedom of movement allows EU citizens to live and work in any EU nation. While much of the debate on freedom of movement in this country has been on the migration of Eastern Europeans to the UK, British citizens have equally been able to benefit from the policy.

Now, however, with Britain looking set to push for a Brexit deal that will curtail EU immigration to these shores, the automatic ability of Brits to live and work on much of the continent will probably come to an end.

But how far does this really matter? What EU nations do Brits even consider moving to in the first place? To find out, YouGov asked more than 12,000 Brits to say whether or not they would want to live in a selection of 42 countries (including all of the 27 other EU nations).

Most Brits would consider living and working in some EU nations... but Canada and New Zealand are more popular

Of the EU nations, Sweden is the most desirable destination, with 52% of Brits saying they either want, or potentially want, to live and/or work there. Following close behind are the Netherlands (51%) and Italy (50%).

All told, there are seven EU nations that Brits are more likely than not to want/potentially want to live or work in: Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Spain, and France.

But all European nations trail Canada and New Zealand. Two thirds (67%) of Brits say they either want to or would potentially want to live and/or work in Canada, with 64% saying the same about New Zealand.

Other popular non-EU nations are Switzerland (51%) and the USA (50%) – putting them on the same level as the most desirable EU countries.

While many Britons may well miss the opportunity to easily relocate within the EU, this only really applies to Western and Nordic Europe. As the map below clearly shows, Brits’ desire to live and work abroad drops off noticeably for EU countries east of Germany.

click to enlarge

The young and Remain voters will miss their ability to live and work abroad most

Age is a clear factor when it comes to whether or not a person will consider living or working abroad. Across all the countries on the list, the older a person is the less likely they are to say they want or may want to live and work there.

Likewise, the same relationship exists between Remain and Leave voters. Leave voters are less likely to consider living or working in every single country listed (except Israel, which is tied).

This is not simply because Remain voters tend to be younger than Leave voters; even controlling for age we find that Remainers are more up for potentially moving to any given country on the list.

In fact, controlling for both age and education (as Remain voters also tend to have higher qualifications), Remain voters are still statistically more likely than Leave voters to consider moving to the vast majority of the countries listed, with one exception: Leave voters are more likely than Remain voters to be potentially willing to live or work in the USA.

Photo: Getty

See the full results here