Movement at the Nation

A line in an article on EU citizens’ rights prompted me to do some calculations that I hadn’t before.

3.2m EU27 citizens [are] living in the UK and 900,000 British citizens in other member states.

EU28 population: 510.1 million
UK population (2016): 65.64 million
EU27 citizens population = 510.1m—(65.64m—3.2m)—0.9m = 446.76m
UK citizens (living in EU28) population = 65.64m—3.2m + 0.9m = 63.34m

This doesn’t account for other non-citizen residents in the UK or EU27, but assuming those have roughly equivalent shares of each population, we can estimate that:

3.2m ÷ 446.76m = 0.72% of EU27 citizens live in the UK.

0.9m ÷ 63.34m = 1.42% of UK citizens live in the EU27.

UK citizens are therefore currently making twice as much use of freedom of movement to live in the rest of the EU as EU27 citizens are to live in the UK.

This is not to ignore that there will be movement between France and Germany, Germany and Italy, and so on; when considering any individual country’s use of freedom of movement, we’d have to look at each of them relative to the rest of the EU (i.e. minus them). But all those intra-EU27 movements are irrelevant to judging what the UK stands to lose by leaving. We’re setting ourselves up to compete with a bloc of 27 countries, not every other EU27 country individually; and need to judge what the UK stands to gain or lose by detaching from or remaining joined with that bloc. We make relatively more use of freedom of movement to move to the EU27 bloc than their citizens use to move here.

It could well be that if we analysed them individually, we’d find that every one of the 28 EU countries makes more use of freedom of movement to move to the rest of the EU than the rest of the EU does to move to them. That’s surely the point of pooling rights in this way: we all win.

(I really want to do this analysis now, but tracking down 28 sets of the necessary figures isn’t trivial, despite useful sources like Eurostat. I would expect to find that we all benefit from freedom of movement in this way, but wonder which country’s citizens make the most use of it... I wouldn’t actually expect it to be the UK.)

Adapted from some of my comments on this Metafilter thread.

21 November 2017 · Politics