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The Brexit Breakup: CurrencyFair Survey Reveals 34% of British Expats Are Currently Seeking Citizenship or Permanent Residency in Another Country Due to Brexit


More than a third of British expats (34 percent) are already actively seeking a formal farewell to their home country due Brexit, and a further 5 percent will seek citizenship for themselves and/or their family in case of a hard Brexit, according to a survey commissioned by international money transfer service CurrencyFair.

The survey, concluding in May, compared British expats’ preferred Brexit outcomes and plans for Brexit with the views of British citizens residing at home. Expats living in EU countries that are expected to be most significantly impacted by Brexit were surveyed, including Germany, France, the Netherlands and Ireland.

Voting with their passports

Over half of the British citizens living outside of the UK surveyed are worried about their citizenship rights as an expat (53 percent), and half (50 percent) are concerned about their citizenship rights in commonwealth countries due to Brexit, which may be a trigger for the rush to seek a citizenship berth outside of their birth country.

"Expats tend to be at the leading edge of the intersection between personal finance and current events, and their behaviour is a barometer for bigger trends and changes,” said Paul Byrne, CEO of CurrencyFair. “Our research indicates that Brexit may be forcing the hand of expats to seek citizenship they might not otherwise seek, as they search for viable options in the event of a hard Brexit and any negative economic consequences.”

Bracing for a recession

In addition to alternative citizenship, a quarter of British expats surveyed say they plan to brace for a recession in the event of a hard Brexit, and plan to liquidate UK assets (17 percent) or transfer money abroad (13 percent) if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal. A third of expats noted that when choosing a provider to transfer money to and from the UK, transparency about fees charged ranks first as the most important aspect, tied with security and trust in service provider.

“People are hearing our message that paying marked up exchange rates and hidden fees for currency exchange isn’t sustainable for expats from a personal finance perspective,” Byrne said

Overall, expats are more worried than UK residents about the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU, from the amount of debt they currently have (42 percent for expats versus 20 percent for UK residents), to the impact of Brexit on their retirement (52 percent expats versus 34 percent in the UK), and their ability to buy the things they want (52 percent expats versus 41 percent in the UK).

This worry is translating into immediate action for many expats who revealed they are already focusing on paying off any unsecured debt (16 percent versus 12 percent in the UK), moving investments to lower risk funds (14 percent versus five percent in the UK), and changing retirement plans (14 percent versus two percent in the UK).

The survey revealed that UK citizens residing at home have a certain confidence when it comes to their own finances. While 54 percent are concerned that the UK economic situation will worsen over the next 12 months, the same percentage believe their individual economic situation will either stay the same or improve. Additionally, the majority of UK residents (54 percent) indicate they plan to do nothing if there is a no-deal Brexit beyond bracing for a recession (42 percent).

“The survey suggests that expats and UK citizens residing at home have contrasting views when it comes to how they anticipate Brexit will affect their lives. It’s clear that when it comes to Brexit, where one stands on the issues depends on where one sits in the world,” said Byrne.

The Irish question

In the Brexit blame game, the Irish government gets off scot-free. Only four percent of British expats surveyed hold the Irish government responsible, despite assertions in some media quarters that the Irish government has ‘overplayed its hand’ on Brexit. A full twenty-seven percent of British expats in Ireland, however, blame the mainstream media or ‘fake news’ for the state of Brexit negotiations. Interestingly, British expats living in Ireland are significantly more likely than others to blame the British public for the current state of affairs. Twenty-seven percent say the British public is at fault, compared to just 16 percent of expats in other countries that blame their fellow countrymen.

Leadership vacuum

The likes of British prime ministers Theresa May and David Cameron, however, take the lion’s share of blame for the current state of Brexit negotiations. Both UK citizens residing at home and expats struggled to suggest an appropriate alternative, with only one in 10 expats choosing Michael Gove, and one in 10 UK citizens residing at home choosing Boris Johnson. When asked which notable person - living or dead - would have Brexit sorted by now if they were in charge, 32 percent of UK nationals said former prime minister Margaret Thatcher and 24 percent said they felt former prime minister Winston Churchill would get the job done. Expats living in France and Germany felt leaders in their adoptive countries, president Emmanuel Macron and chancellor Angela Merkel, respectively, would do a better job handling Brexit. Kylie Minogue ranked second in both Germany and The Netherlands with 15 percent and 18 percent respectively choosing the singer. Twelve percent of expats surveyed in the Netherlands chose Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, formerly known as Meghan Markle.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 664 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th April - 2nd May 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).


CurrencyFair is an international money transfer platform focused on providing the best available exchange rates and experience for customers who need to send money and make payments overseas. CurrencyFair’s 150,000 strong user-community have traded more than €8 billion and saved more than €205 million using the service. Our unique peer-to-peer model and secure, state-of-the-art technology, raises the industry standard in designing technology-led foreign currency services for web, IOS and Android use. The company has offices in Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, and announced plans to expand further across Asia in 2019 after acquiring Convoy Payments (Hong Kong) in December 2018.

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