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Eastern Europeans Were Leaving U.K. in Months Before Brexit

  • Departures coincided with Covid crisis that closed workplaces
  • Figures raise questions whether those workers will return
A Polish shop in the suburbs of Boston, Lincolnshire, U.K. 

A Polish shop in the suburbs of Boston, Lincolnshire, U.K. 

Photographer: Emanuele Giovagnoli/SOPA Images/Getty Images

The number of eastern Europeans living in the U.K. last year slumped to levels last seen in 2015 ahead of the end of the Brexit transition and as the coronavirus lockdowns closed huge parts of the economy.

The non-British resident population declined in the year through June, with the biggest decrease among citizens of the so-called EU8 countries that joined the European Union in 2004, according to Office for National Statistics estimates published Thursday. Those include Poland, Estonia and Slovenia.