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54 per cent of Brits want to settle abroad

54 per cent of Brits want to settle abroad

Old Aug 26th 2002, 9:59 am
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Default 54 per cent of Brits want to settle abroad

Reports in today's Telegraph.

54pc of Britons want to settle down abroad
By Anthony King
(Filed: 26/08/2002)

More than half of Britons are seriously considering seeking a new life abroad, says a survey for The Daily Telegraph.

Although Tony Blair was elected on the promise of "New Labour, New Britain," few people seem to detect changes for the better.

Not even at the height of the Suez crisis in the 1950s, when long queues of would-be emigrants formed at the offices of Commonwealth high commissions, have so many Britons been so anxious to turn their backs on home.

The YouGov poll says that 54 per cent of the adult population would like to settle abroad if they could. The figure during the Suez crisis, when many feared the outbreak of a major European war, was only 41 per cent.

Part of the explanation is clearly not that Britain has become less attractive to its citizens but that far more of the rest of the world has become more so.

During the post-war period, Britons contemplating emigration thought strictly in terms of America or one of the old Commonwealth countries, notably Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In the 1940s and 1950s European countries had little appeal.

Today, America and the nations of the old Commonwealth, apart from South Africa, retain their allure. But Spain and France now rank high on the list of would-be migrants' preferred homes.

If language were no object, more people would prefer to settle in either Spain (17 per cent of those thinking of moving) or France (15 per cent) than in America or Australia.

Not only have countries such as Spain and France prospered in recent years, but thousands of British holidaymakers can regularly sample the delights of relatively low prices and rural relaxation.

The post-war British emigrant was usually moving a long way from home to a country he or she had never seen. The modern migrant is typically returning to somewhere already well known.

People now shop around for countries, just as they shop around for bargains.

Asked why they wanted to leave Britain, most people cited the lower cost of living abroad, new opportunities and the British weather.

Why more people are thinking of quitting UK
(Filed: 26/08/2002)

Would-be migrants now look to Europe, reports Anthony King

The British have never been the "insular" people they are frequently made out to be. Otherwise the map of the world would never have been painted red and English would not now be the world language.

Emigration has been a common aspiration for generations and YouGov's survey for The Daily Telegraph demonstrates that Britons' desire to move on and move out has not abated. On the contrary, the ratio of movers - or at least potential movers - to stayers has increased over the past half-century.

Britons who wish to emigrate are no longer forced to choose mainly between Australia, Canada and other countries of the old Empire. They can now roam the face of a newly prosperous Europe. Toronto competes directly with Torremolinos; Perth with Perpignan.

Moreover, emigration no longer has the air of finality it once did. Disappointed emigrants can turn around and come home. Britons happily settled abroad can visit friends and relatives in the UK more or less as often as they want.

The traditional voyage to Australia aboard a slow-moving P & O liner took weeks. Today's expats can fly home from places as distant as Auckland and Melbourne within a day.

The modern Briton thinking of emigrating also has the option of "pre-emigrating". Families can spend days or weeks overseas discovering whether their proposed destination is really to their taste. They can even shop around among different countries.

The Gallup Poll as long ago as 1948 asked people whether, if they were free to do so, they would like to settle in another country. The question was put again at intervals during the ensuing decades and YouGov repeated it in the new survey.

As the chart indicates, more people today than during the era of post-war austerity - and even during the industrial troubles of the 1970s - say they would like to live abroad. More than half of all Britons, 54 per cent, claim to be potential migrants. Roughly the same proportion, 55 per cent, say they have gone even further and "seriously considered settling in another country".

The pattern of preferred destinations has changed markedly since the post-war era. In 1948, the great majority of people thinking of emigrating, 76 per cent, envisaged settling in one of the Commonwealth countries. The two most favoured destinations at that time were Australia and South Africa, with New Zealand not far behind.

Today, as the figures in the chart show, the US is the most favoured destination followed by Australia. New Zealand is less popular than it once was and South Africa has all but disappeared from view (chosen now by a mere two per cent of YouGov's respondents).

However, the most marked change since 1948 concerns the rest of Europe. Almost no one considered settling on the Continent immediately after the war. Today, 13 per cent choose Spain, another 13 per cent France and 12 per cent a range of other European countries.

As the chart also shows, Spain and France would easily become the two most preferred destinations were it not for the language barrier.

That said, the new findings explode one myth: that the British are inveterate Italophiles. The glitterati may migrate to Chiantishire every summer, but only a tiny proportion, one per cent, say they would move to Italy (the same proportion as say they would move to Germany).

The reasons Britons give for wanting to move to another country explode yet another myth - that the food's so much better. Food comes at the very bottom of YouGov's list of reasons for considering moving.

Far more important are people's sense that they could live more cheaply abroad, that living abroad "would offer new opportunities", that people in other countries "enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle" and - inevitably - that Britain's weather "is pretty terrible".

One YouGov finding is likely to horrify NHS supporters. Approaching half of all YouGov's respondents, 45 per cent, say they have a "great deal" or "some" sympathy with the idea that "health services are better abroad" than they are here. Almost no one would have said that shortly after the war.

The chart headed "Reasons for staying" also makes depressing reading. Inertia seems to be the reason why a lot of us remain in Britain. Small majorities of YouGov's respondents say this country has a "history one can be proud of" and that "you can rely on the NHS in emergencies", but a far larger proportion, 79 per cent, give the impression that, if they remain in Britain, they will do so because "almost all my friends and relatives are here".

Otherwise, as the figures in the chart indicate, large numbers of people profess little or no sympathy for the idea that someone might want to remain in Britain because it has a richer culture or a fairer society than other countries or because Britain is a more varied and diverse country than many others.

People are particularly dismissive of the idea - once a commonplace of British conversation - that "people are more polite in Britain than abroad".

YouGov elicited the views of 2,060 adults across Great Britain on-line between Aug 19 and Aug 22. The sample has been weighted to conform to the demographic profile of British adults as a whole.

Anthony King is professor of government at Essex University.

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