In Brief

Will Brexit lead to an exodus of Polish workers?

Poland's prime minister says he wants to see more workers return from the UK to help its domestic economy grow

Britain is facing an exodus of Polish workers, as uncertainty over Brexit combined with a strong economy in Poland lures people back to their homeland.

Official figures last autumn revealed more people from EU8 countries, which include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, left the UK than arrived last year: the first time there has been a net departure since those countries joined the EU in 2004.

Anti-Brexit campaigners say the drop in net migration from eastern European member states is part of a “Brexodus” caused by uncertainty over Brexit.

Now Poland's prime minister says he wants to see even more workers return from the UK to help its domestic economy grow, telling the BBC “give us our people back”.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mateusz Morawiecki cited the low level of unemployment and 5.5% GDP growth as reasons to return.

There are nearly one million Polish nationals living in the UK, by far the highest number of any EU member state.

“Polish-British trade is worth more than $20 billion a year” claims Forbes, and the country “has been critical of the way the EU has handled the Brexit negotiations”, says the BBC’s business editor Simon Jack.

Earlier this week, Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz suggested that the Irish backstop should be time-limited to five years, a move “seen by many in the UK as a crack in the solidarity of the EU27's negotiating position”, says Jack.

The UK government has long viewed the large Polish diaspora as an ace card and hoped to use the fear of a no-deal Brexit to prompt the government in Warsaw to pressure the EU into adopting a softer line in the negotiations.

Yet the EU27 has remained remarkably united over the two-and-half years since the Brexit vote.

But even with guarantees their rights will be protected post-Brexit, economic considerations and an increasingly hostile atmosphere after the referendum has led many to conclude the time has come to leave the UK.

Madeleine Sumption, the director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, says: “The UK has clearly become a less attractive country for EU migrants since the referendum.”

“The lower value of the pound means that workers coming here for higher wages are getting less than they were in the past, and economic conditions in many of the key EU countries of origin have improved a lot over the past few years. Uncertainty about the implications of Brexit may have played a role,” she added.

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