Britons quit country in record numbers
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 23/08/2007
The number of Britons emigrating in the 12 months to July 2006 reached 385,000, the highest since present counting methods were introduced in 1991, new figures show.
This is almost certainly the greatest emigration since the 1960s, when thousands left to start new lives in Australia. It could even be the highest since before the First World War, though official figures are not available.
Almost 200,000 of those leaving for a year or more were British citizens – one every three minutes – and the rest were foreign nationals returning home or going elsewhere.
Since 1997, 1.8 million British nationals have left the country and about 900,000 have returned. At the same time, more than three million foreign nationals arrived and about half that number left.
The departure of so many Britons is exacerbating the demographic and cultural changes wrought by high levels of immigration.
Despite the exodus, the population is rising – because emigrants are more than balanced by immigrants, with 574,000 arriving.
In the year to July 2006, the population rose 350,000, to almost 60.6 million and is expected to reach 65 million by 2020. It has risen by a similar amount – the equivalent to a city the size of Bristol – every year for five years.
Net migration from abroad remained the largest factor in the increase, contributing 55 per cent of growth.
A study last year by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggested that one in 12 British nationals may be living abroad, a total of about 5.5 million.
There are 250,000 second homes owned by British nationals in France alone, though Australia and Spain are the two favourite destinations for the British diaspora.
Surveys indicate that another one million are set to pack their bags for good over the next five years and a further 500,000 live abroad for part of the year.
Not only do more British live abroad than any other nationality, they are also more spread out. There are 41 countries with more than 10,000 British living there and another 71 countries with more than 1,000.
Emigration levels are back to those last seen in the late-1950s and early 1960s, when the ''10 Poms” left in droves for Australia, enticed by subsidised travel and settlement.
They are even higher than the last great exodus, before 1914, when the outflow ran at 300,000 per annum and more young men were leaving the country every year than died on the battlefields of Europe.
Also, far from being pensioners looking for retirement in the sun, many leaving today were young and highly skilled. The IPPR study showed that four in 10 were in managerial or professional occupations.
Liam Clifford, who runs globalvisas.com, said his company had 50,000 hits last month from people looking to leave.
“They do not believe that the services and the system can cope with the number of people coming into the UK.”
David Nicholson-Lord, of the Optimum Population Trust, which campaigns for a ''sustainable'' population, said: “Evidence strongly suggests emigration is driven by a perceived decline in UK quality of life, with congestion, queues, overcrowding and general 'lack of space' a key element.”