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International mobility between the UK and Europe around Brexit: a data-driven study

How has Brexit affected cross-border human mobility between the UK and the European Union? Recent research at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research investigates this question using official statistics and non-traditional data sources.
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Brexit was one of the most significant geopolitical events so far in the 21st century, and it continues to reshape the landscape of international relations, trade, and migration. In this recent comprehensive analysis, a study led by Alina Sîrbu (University of Pisa) combined data from multiple sources to paint a picture of how Brexit has impacted the movement of people between the UK and Europe. 

The researchers used official statistics from Eurostat as the baseline for migration trends between the UK and European Union Member States since 2007. They also tracked the movement of highly-skilled professionals before and after the Brexit vote in June 2016 through data on scientific publications and Crunchbase data on user and company information. Real-time mobility trends using X (formally Twitter) data and monthly travel patterns using air passenger data were also assessed. These data were then linked to public interest and attention to Brexit-related topics on Google Trends, to analyse how changes in public awareness and concern about Brexit influenced people's decisions to move or travel. 

The research shows that there were changes to human mobility between the UK and the European Union related to Brexit, but that these varied depending on the type of mobility and region of the EU. Immediately after the Brexit referendum, migration from most EU regions to the UK decreased significantly. The movement of scientists and tech professionals, notably decreased post-Brexit compared with other professions, with mobility of people in these jobs decreasing significantly, and in particular between the UK and South and Central-Eastern Europe. Additionally, X and air passenger data revealed that monthly travel patterns were significantly disrupted after the Brexit referendum, indicating a strong link between these political developments and mobility. Regression analysis also demonstrated a strong link between Google Trends data on Brexit and the patterns observed in air passenger data, reflecting how public attention for the distancing of the UK from the European Union translated into action.

This research is relevant for policymakers, businesses, and individuals in the UK and the EU who are interested in attracting and retaining talent from abroad. Being aware of the effects on human mobility between the UK and Europe following Brexit can help stakeholders adjust their strategies and plans for talent acquisition, migration policies and related settlement needs.


 This work was supported by the European Union - Horizon 2020 Program through the project “HumMingBird - Enhanced migration measures from a multidimensional perspective”, Grant Agreement n.870661, and under the scheme “INFRAIA-01-2018-2019 - Integrating Activities for Advanced Communities”, Grant Agreement n.871042, and SoBigData++: European Integrated Infrastructure for Social Mining and Big Data Analytics. Open access funding was provided by Università di Pisa within the CRUI-CARE Agreement. 

Additional Information


Jisu Kim and Alina Sîrbu

Authors of Original Article


Sîrbu, A., Goglia, D., Kim, J. et al. (2024).  International mobility between the UK and Europe around Brexit: a data-driven study. J Comput Soc Sc (2024).