“We are very hurt”: 6 years after the Brexit referendum

A study of European citizens living in the UK has revealed the remaining “open wounds” Brexit. And it was the respondents who emphasized that the UK’s decision to leave Europe had made them feel betrayed, insecure and suspicious of the country who, however, the majority still call home.

Survey of EU citizens from 22 different countries and who stayed behind after Brexit, exhibiting “a profound and lasting impact on their lives and the sense of identity and belonging of EU citizens in the UK”, the study said.

A 64 year old woman, born in France and naturalized in England, capturing a common sentiment among survey participants: “I will always remember the Thursday in 2016 when I woke up and saw the results. I cry. I have to go to work. I felt betrayed, unheard, uncared for, I stopped wondering about my life in England and what it was for.

Surveys show that most of the population is settled and they have plans to live long term, and legally, in the country of residence. However, looking to the future, there are some differences between the older and newer residents of member countries in terms of migration plans and attitudes towards mobility.

The study of Brexit: family, the main concern

The main concern of those surveyed, despite the fact that the majority have UK resident status or citizenship, permanent legal status and right of residence. Because this affects family relationships, especially families of mixed status.

“I will forever remember the Thursday in 2016 when I woke up and saw the results. I cry. I have to go to work. I felt betrayed, unheard, uncared for, I stopped wondering about my life in England and what it was for.

Family and relationships are the main drivers of migration decision-making, both among those who have left the UK since Brexit and among those who have stayed. They are also a major consideration for those planning to move in the next five years.

On the other hand, those surveyed said that Brexit had significantly affected their view of the UK. Yeah OK 72% still feel an emotional attachment to England89% said their opinion of the country had changed – 68.6% in “a lot” or “a fair amount” – since the 2016 referendum.

Brexit: “Insufficient protection against discrimination”

Several respondents’ statements made clear the feelings of European citizens after Brexit.

“Brexit jeopardizes the future prosperity of this country and my place in it.” (Italian citizen in the UK, 37 years).

“I feel less welcome in England and feel there are fewer career opportunities. It’s still my house, but not the same. I moved here as part of the same idea, now I feel the general idea has disappeared and I feel like an immigrant. (Dutch citizen in England, 40 years old
many years)

«Hostility has increased over Brexit. There is not sufficient protection against discrimination. Poles are not welcome in office work.” (Polish citizen in England, 42 years).

The survey, which includes 96 questions, will take place between December 2021 and January 2022, one year after the end Brexit transition period. The study provides insight into migration patterns, residence and citizenship status in the country of residence, the impact of Brexit and the pandemic on future plans, family life, political participation in the UK and the EU, as well as understanding of identity and sense of belonging.

Elena Eland

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