No evidence of expat pensioners in EU rushing back to UK, says report

Around 340,000 recipients of British pensions currently live in other EU countries, excluding Ireland, and there is no evidence to suggest they are considering returning to the UK in meaningful numbers because of uncertainty over their rights after the UK leaves the EU, the latest data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics shows.

“In fact, the number of State Pension recipients resident in other EU countries has risen steadily over the last five years, continuing a long-term trend,” the ONS reported today, in what it said was its latest in a series of reports that looks at migration patterns between the UK and Europe as part of the UK’s preparations to exit the EU.

While 340,000 residents of Europe ex-Ireland may receive British pensions, the data shows that there around 247,000 British citizens aged 65 and over living in other EU countries (excluding Ireland), indicating that many of the recipients of these British pensions aren’t British nationals. By comparison, some 85,000 people aged 65 and over from other EU countries (excluding Ireland) are currently living in the UK, the data shows. (See table, below.)

(The ONS said it will consider Ireland and its migration patterns separately in a future article, owing to the UK’s “unique relationship with Ireland” due to such factors as the Common Travel Area, in place since 1922, and the fact that people born in Northern Ireland are able to take up both Irish and British citizenship, which make it “complex to identify those who may be affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU”.)

Older British citizens living in the EU, and older EU citizens living in the UK, selected countriesSource: EU Labour Force Survey 2016, Eurostat and 3-year pooled Annual Population Survey, annual average from January 2013 to December 2015, ONS













What’s more, the ONS noted, there are currently some 121,000 “older Brits” living in Spain, more than double the number there 10 years ago. The number of people in this age group who have been moving to Spain has not gone up significantly since 2008, “so the recent increase is likely to be due to people who have lived there for many years getting older”, it added.

Other findings in the ONS report:

  • Italy is the country whose older citizens living in the UK “most outnumber the older people from Britain living there”. Most Italians who moved to the UK in the 1950s, 1960, and 1970s are now aged 65 and over.
  • The older people from Poland who live in the UK also outnumbering the number of older Brits living in Poland, and are also mainly long-term residents rather than more recent migrants.

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, the UK financial products and pensions provider, echoed many other observers of the latest ONS data on Tuesday when he said that it suggested that “the mass exodus [of Brits from Europe] some feared has yet to materialise”.

Meanwhile, those British nationals who currently receiving a British Pension and living in Europe, but not in Ireland, continue to await confirmation of a reciprocal deal that will guarantee these UK State Pensions won’t be “frozen” at the rate they were when they started taking them, as those living in certain other countries, such as Canada and Australia, are.

Selby noted that it’s possible some of the pensioners who haven’t returned to the UK yet may be “awaiting clarity on how the final deal will affect them” before making a move, “although for many retired expats, whether or not their state pension continues to rise in line with the triple-lock will be just one of a number of factors to be considered”.

“The value of annual increases in the state pension should not be underestimated, however, and could run into tens of thousands of pounds over the course of a person’s retirement,” Selby went on.

“But ultimately it makes sense for people to hang tight until details of the Brexit deal become clear.”

To read the ONS’s latest report on UK/European migration patterns,  click here. 

Ridhima Sharma
Ridhima Sharma is Correspondent for InternationaInvestment. She speaks German and is also DACH Correspondent for InvestmentEurope. She has more than 8 years of experience in the media industry. Before joining us, she was working in India and covering automotive and lifestyle sectors. Over the years many of her stories have been published in various magazines across India.

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