A survey of EU citizens living in the UK has revealed the “open wound” left behind Brexitwhere respondents said the decision to leave the bloc had made them feel let down, insecure and distrustful of the country most people still call home.
The survey of EU citizens from 22 countries, who had mostly been in the UK for more than five years and resided since Brexit, showed “a profound and lasting impact on the life and sense of identity and belonging of EU citizens”. citizens of the United Kingdom “. said authors.
“The public narrative may indicate that Brexit is finished and dusty, and everyone has moved on,” said the report’s lead author, Prof Nando Sigona of the University of Birmingham. “But for EU citizens, Brexit remains an open wound.”
The study, EU citizens in the UK after Brexitshowed that rebuilding trust in British institutions and politicians would be challenging when “the consequences of Brexit still have such profound consequences” for the lives of EU citizens, Sigona said.
Respondents said Brexit had significantly affected their view of Britain. While 72% still felt an emotional attachment to the UK, 89% said their opinion of the country had changed – 68.6% with “a lot” or “a lot” – since the 2016 referendum.
When asked to give three words summarizing what Britain means to them, many nonetheless offered terms such as “home” and “love”, reflecting the remaining strength of EU citizens’ ties to the country they had. got home, the report says.
However, positive responses were offset by words such as “disappointment”, “betrayed”, “sadness”, “frustration”, “anger”, “unwelcome” and “disgusted”. Free text response to the survey reiterated the predominantly negative mood.
“I was at home here,” said a Dutch man, 43. “Since the referendum folk people still ask me where I come from and when I go home, but those questions have lost their innocence.” Another Dutch man of 40 said: “I moved here as part of the same philosophy; now I feel like the common idea is gone and I feel like an immigrant.”
Others said Brexit had changed their view of their country of origin: “I feel more German and more attached to Germany since 2016,” said a 45-year-old German woman in Britain.
Many of the 364 respondents contrasted their views on their country of origin with their perception of post-Brexit Britain. “Hope my country of origin never becomes as unjust and xenophobic as Britain is now,” said a 62-year-old French woman.
Strikingly, Brexit also appears to have been “a real trigger for pro-EU sentiment”, Sigona said, with more than 90% of respondents saying that since Brexit they felt at least moderately attached to blocks. Words offered in support of this sentiment included “belonging,” “peace,” “freedom,” “unity,” and “movement.”
A 52-year-old French woman who had returned to France said she “took the EU for granted before Brexit” but was “now aware of how valuable it is, even if it is not perfect”. A 44-year-old Italian woman said she “never used to pay much attention to what the EU stood for or what it did”, but now “defends it against lies smeared in the press”.
Not surprisingly, the 96-question survey – conducted between December 2021 and January 2022, a year after the end of the transition period – found that most of the UK’s permanent residents, often part of multi-generational households, planned to stay. More than half had permanent legal status, and more than 30% had dual citizenship.
Of the approximately 30% who had changed country since the referendum, the main reasons were family or partner (25%), Brexit (17%), work (16%) and studies (14%) – with “Brexit” covering. a wealth of emotional, political and practical considerations.
Among respondents in the UK, however, immigration status and residence permits were an overriding concern, even if the majority had established status or British citizenship, as different family members’ different statuses – including parents or grandparents in the EU – affected family relationships and shaping future plans.
There was also widespread concern that settled status is only digital without paperwork. “Given the lack of trust in British immigration authorities, many people still do not feel safe,” Sigona said. “They are also concerned about not being able to take care of relatives outside the UK, for example.”
A 64-year-old French-born woman in the UK for more than 40 years said: “I can hardly express how hurt I am. I came to the UK in 1979 and worked in the NHS. I have felt betrayed, unheard of, cared for. I started “I decided to apply for British citizenship, not because I wanted to be British, but so I could sleep at night again. When I got my British passport, I spat on it.”