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Political Science in Europe

Here, There, Everywhere? Mapping EU Heritage in the UK Population

European Union
Laurence Lessard-Phillips
University of Birmingham
Laurence Lessard-Phillips
University of Birmingham
Nando Sigona
University of Birmingham

As of early 2017, there were 3.7 million nationals from the European Union residing in the United Kingdom, representing approximately 5% of the total UK population and more than a threefold increase in numbers since the early 1990s, especially since the mid-2000s (ONS 2017; Vargas-Silva and Markaki 2017). Before, during, and following the EU referendum, issues with regard to the free movement of EU nationals and ‘controlling EU immigration’ permeated political, media, and popular discourses in the UK. Yet, a clear and detailed picture of the current and historical geographical distribution and the living conditions of EU nationals in the UK is lacking (see Sabater 2015 for a rare exception). It is important to understand the demographic circumstances of an understudied population, who is growing in demographic importance in the UK and for whom exiting the European Union is most likely going to have an impact. In this paper, we use various administrative data sources to map and profile EU nationals in the UK, focussing on their historical geographical distribution in the past 35 years, with a special focus on the changes since the Maastricht Treaty and 2004 enlargement, and contrasting this with the situation at the time of the Referendum. We use Census data and official immigration estimates to examine the geographical distribution of EU-born nationals, their socio-demographic characteristics, as well as the characteristics of the areas in which they lived. This historical perspective will allow us to capture EU heritage across generations in contemporary Britain.
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