Spain, France and Germany are the most popular European countries for British expats with official figures showing that 69% of British citizens living in the European Union are based in these countries.

The data from the British Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that 784,900 lived in EU nations in 2017 with two thirds aged 15 to 64. However, more retired people live in Spain than any other EU country.

Barcelona, Spain

But the EU is not the most popular place for British people moving to live and work abroad. Some 33% of all British born emigrants living outside the UK in 2017 lived in Australia or New Zealand, 28% lived in the United States or Canada and 26% in the EU, of which 6% lived in Ireland.

By comparison, 49% of French born emigrants living outside France were living in the EU in 2015 and 44% of German born emigrants living outside Germany were living in the EU.

The figures also show that more British men, some 53%, live in the EU than women. The greatest difference is in Lithuania, where 85% of the British people are male.

‘Spain continues to be the most desirable location for the three quarters of a million Brits living in the EU. However, the EU as a whole is not the most popular destination for British expats, with more than half preferring to live in English speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada,’ said Jay Lindop, ONS deputy director of migration statistics.

A breakdown of the figures shows that of the 69% of British citizens living in the EU some 37% are in Spain, 19% in France and 12% in Germany. The largest portion, 293,500, lived in Spain.

Of the 784,900 British citizens living in the EU 66% or 518,000 were aged 15 to 64, some 26% or 207,300 were aged 65 and over and the remaining 59,600 were aged under 15 years.

Comparing this to the population of the UK, according to the 2016 population estimates 64% were of working age, 18% were aged 65 and over and 18% were aged 15 and under. Lindop explained that this shows that the population living abroad features more retirees and fewer children than the general population of the UK.

Age compositions of British citizens within each country vary. The highest proportions of British citizens aged 15 to 64 years, are in Finland and the Czech Republic at 88% and 87%, respectively. British citizens aged 15 to 64 years outnumber those in older age groups in all countries of the EU.

The data also shows that many British citizens spend their retirement in sunny southern European countries with 41% of the British population in Spain and 39% in Portugal aged 65 years and over. Other countries with a high proportion of people aged 65 years and older were Bulgaria, Malta and Cyprus.

For British citizens living in France, 19% were aged 65 years and over, 68% were aged 15 to 64 and a relatively large proportion, just 13%, were under 15 years old. More British children, some 20,100, live in France than anywhere else in the EU, accounting for 34% of British children living in the EU.

Estimates of children in these data are likely to be those who have moved with their parents, or are born in the country of residence. In this data, dual national children would be counted as nationals of the country they live in, so British-French children living in France would be counted as French.