How EU’s Free Movement cost British people in money and resources

Graham Charles Lear
4 min readFeb 6, 2022


There is a great deal said and written about how the ending of the Free Movement of EU citizens into the UK has been a tragedy, by limiting our reciprocal access to EU countries. I believe this narrative is heavily one-sided and it needs correcting.

In this report, I look exclusively at the question of crime, and specifically the criminals from EU countries and from those countries where the UK had to allow visa-free travel under EU rules.

NOTE: What follows relates only to the prison population of England and Wales. It does NOT include Scotland or Northern Ireland. Neither does it include all crime. The figures only include those whose offences were serious enough to land them in prison — either sentenced or on remand.

The prison population, England and Wales, as of 31 Dec 2021
Looking only at foreign prisoners

  • Nationalities benefiting from EU’s ‘Freedom of Movement’: 5,610 (57.2%)
  • By far the largest group was from Albania: 1,462 (14.9%)

Looking only at EU nationals, here is the picture

  • EU27 nationalities: 4,063 (41.4%)
  • Over 75% of EU27 prisoners came from just five countries
  • These are: Poland, Romania, Ireland, Lithuania, and Portugal

EU27 prisoners represent the largest single grouping of all foreign prisoners

Under EU free movement, criminals had free rein to work across member states’ borders. Now, more than 4,000 EU citizens are in UK prisons — by far the biggest single geographical grouping in UK prisons.

In addition, more than 1,500 prisoners are from Western Balkan countries (mainly Albania) who were entitled to the EU’s visa-free travel into the UK despite not being EU members.

Post-Brexit, the UK can now limit the movement of EU citizens only to those with a valid and lawful purpose for being in the UK and can take more action to clamp down or prevent the arrival of EU criminal gangs, including those involved in drugs, prostitution and people smuggling.

This is now happening with firmer inspections at UK points of entry.

EU Nationals refused entry to UK increases to four times the 2020 total

Those from the EU who have been ‘stopped’ by Border Force increases by 1000%

Tighter border controls have been applied to EU Nationals since 1st January 2021

The Home Office is believed to be applying a more thorough approach in questioning arrivals from the EU regarding the true intentions for their visit, including looking for visitors who are actually seeking work without the correct documentation or the right to do so.

While illegal beach landings continue, new stats show firmer legal enforcement at official points of entry.

This is evidenced by a climb from 1,150 EU Nationals stopped at entry points in the first three quarters of 2020 to 12,515 in Jan-Sep 2021 — an increase of 988%. Indeed, the number stopped in the first quarter of Jan-Mar 2021 alone (3,294) was greater than the whole of 2020 (1,973).

The overwhelming majority of EU nationals stopped were Romanians (65% of the total), followed by Bulgarians (10%) and Poles (7%).

Numbers being stopped are rising each quarter

The new data shows the number of European Union nationals stopped at UK Border Control points of entry climbed by a third to 5,266 in the third quarter of last year, compared to 3,955 the previous quarter.

How much has all of this cost the British taxpayer?

There are no official figures available from the Home Office for the costs of crime committed by EU Nationals or those from other countries who have been been able to enter the United Kingdom under EU rules.

What is certain is that there will a significant saving for the UK taxpayer from the expense of monitoring, investigating, prosecuting and sentencing foreign criminals. There are also extraordinary costs associated with deporting EU citizens often under legal challenges. In addition, there are costs involved in seeking extradition for those who committed crimes in the UK but evaded UK jurisdiction.

Taking the above facts inherited from the days of Freedom of Movement into consideration there is much still to be achieved — the potential is enormous and will take decades of a firm and resolute dedication from our politicians to enforce our borders.

On the personal, material and financial cost of crime from ending free movement, the Home Secretary has made some inroads that I have reported on before (see what have written above)— but we can do more.

Outside the EU, the UK now has an opportunity to rethink its comparatively extreme openness and permissiveness to other non-UK incomers who lack a valid employment or tourism purpose for arriving in the UK. This is an opportunity to improve the safety and security of British citizens that must be grasped.

It is no wonder settled status has proven so popular and revealed the numbers of EU citizens living in the UK was far greater than the British authorities (or the Remain campaign) would admit. (nearly 6 million )The fact is we now have a quantifiable amount we can plan and budget for, EU citizens domiciled in the UK who will be able to contribute to society’s costs through their tax. Knowing the true number is better for everyone concerned.

I can see that while there were some advantages to those who travelled to the EU there were significant downsides and costs to British Citizens who resided in the UK and met the costs of EU residents arriving under ‘Free Movement’. Numbers that were wildly underestimated — along with the costs.

Sources: The Home Office | Ministry of Justice | HM Prisons Service] Border Force



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.