Examining scenarios of ethnic composition in the United Kingdom

International Geographical Union, Quebec, 6 to 10 August 2018.

The United Kingdom faces demographic uncertainty, as negotiations for leaving the European Union (Brexit) proceed. This paper focuses on the sub-national changes in the ethnic composition of the UK’s population. Brexit has implications for international migration into and out of the UK, dependent on future immigration policy and on how attractive the UK will be as a labour market. At the same time, the UK population is experiencing ethnic diversification, consequent on past immigration. The transition to a more ethnically diverse population is set to continue but the pace of change will depend on the outcome of Brexit. To explore the UK’s future ethnic diversity, we run five population projection scenarios, disaggregated by locality, age, sex and ethnic group. Three international migration scenarios, varying by the extent of the break with the EU, are implemented together with two reference projections assuming zero international migration and zero migration (including internal migration). Ethnic groups are differently affected by these migration scenarios, depending on the contribution of international migration to population growth and the extent of demographic momentum. Under every scenario, the UK’s population is projected to continue to grow, age and diversify.