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The number of Britons moving to European Union countries soared after the Brexit vote in 2016, according to a U.K.-German study released Tuesday – an exodus comparable to those caused by major social or economic crises.

An analysis of official statistics by the Oxford in Berlin research partnership and the Berlin-based WZB Social Science Center found that migration from Britain to other EU countries rose by 30 per cent, from about 57,000 a year in 2008-15 to more than 73,000 a year in 2016-18. Spain saw the largest number of British arrivals, followed by France.

“These increases in numbers are of a magnitude that you would expect when a country is hit by a major economic or political crisis,” report co-author Daniel Auer said.

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Migration among the 27 countries that now remain in the EU remained relatively stable during the same period, the researchers found.

The number of Britons seeking passports from EU nations also soared by more than 500 per cent. In Germany, it was up 2,000 per cent.

British voters opted narrowly in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU, ending the automatic right of the bloc’s citizens to move to Britain, and of Britons to live and work across Europe. Britain left the EU in January, though it remains bound by the bloc’s rules – including the right to freedom of movement – during a transition period that lasts until the end of 2020.

Brexit has left about 3.6 million EU citizens in Britain and more than 1 million Britons in the 27 EU nations scrambling to preserve their residency and employment status. The British government says more than three million Europeans have completed a registration process confirming their right to remain in Britain.

Dr. Auer and co-author Daniel Tetlow said the study “reveals the U.K. is facing a potential brain drain of highly-educated British citizens, who have decided to invest their futures in continental Europe.”

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