Brexit remains an ‘open wound’ for EU citizens living in the UK | Britain’s exit from the European Union

A study of EU citizens living in the UK revealed the ‘open wound’ left by Brexit, with respondents saying the decision to leave the bloc left them feeling betrayed, insecure and mistrustful towards a country that most still consider their home.

The survey of EU citizens from 22 countries, who have been mostly in Britain for more than five years and have stayed since Brexit, showed “a profound and lasting impact on the lives and sense of identity and belonging of EU citizens in the UK”. The authors said.

The report’s lead author, Professor Nando Seguna of the University of Birmingham, said: “The general narrative may be that Brexit is over, and that everyone has moved on.” “But for EU citizens, Brexit remains an open wound.”

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The study, titled “EU Citizens in the UK Post-Brexit,” showed that rebuilding trust in British institutions and politicians will be difficult when “the fallout from Brexit continues to have such profound consequences” for the lives of British citizens The European Union, says Sigona.

Respondents to the poll said that Britain’s exit from the European Union significantly affected their view of Britain. While 72% still feel some emotional connection to the UK, 89% said their opinion of the country has changed – 68.6% “a great deal” or “a lot” – since the 2016 referendum.

In response to a request to provide three words summarizing what Britain means to them, many nonetheless provided terms such as “home” and “love”, reflecting the remaining strength of EU citizens’ ties to the country to which they returned, the report said.

However, the positive responses were overshadowed by words such as “disappointment,” “betrayal,” “sadness,” “frustration,” “anger,” “unwelcome,” and “disgust.” Free-text responses to the survey echoed the prevailing negative sentiments.

A 43-year-old Dutch man said: “I’ve been home here. Since the referendum… people keep asking me where I come from and when to come home, but these questions have lost their innocence.” Another 40-year-old Dutch man said: “I moved here as part of the same philosophy. Now I feel that 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 connected to Germany since 2016,” said a 45-year-old German woman in the UK.

Many of the 364 participants opposed their view of their country of origin with their perception of post-Brexit Britain. “I hope my country of origin will never become as unjust and xenophobic as the UK is now,” said a 62-year-old French woman.

Remarkably, Brexit has also proven to be a “real catalyst for pro-EU sentiment,” Sigona said, with more than 90% of survey respondents saying that since Brexit they have felt at least a moderate association with the bloc. Words offered to support this feeling included “belonging,” “peace,” “freedom,” “unity,” and “movement.”

A 52-year-old French woman who had returned to France said she “taken the EU for granted before Brexit” but “now realizes how precious it is, even if it’s not perfect”. A 44-year-old Italian woman said she “wasn’t used to paying much attention to what the EU stood for or did” but now “defends it from the lies peddled by the press”.

Unsurprisingly, the 96-question survey – conducted between December 2021 and January 2022, a year after the end of the transition period – found that most EU citizens settled in the UK, often part of multigenerational families, intend to stay . More than half of them have permanent legal status and more than 30% have dual citizenship.

Of the nearly 30% who have changed countries since the referendum, the main reasons cited were family or partner (25%), Brexit (17%), work (16%), and study (14%) – with Brexit covering many From emotional, political and practical considerations.

However, among UK respondents, even if the majority had settled into British settlement or citizenship status, immigration and residency status was the biggest concern, with different family members’ status – including parents or grandparents in the EU – differing influencing on family relationships and the formation of future plans.

There has also been widespread concern that the stable situation is digital only, with no paper proof. “Given the lack of trust in the UK immigration authorities, many people still do not feel safe,” Sigona said. “They are also concerned about not being able, for example, to take care of relatives outside the UK.”

A 64-year-old French-born woman who has lived in the UK for more than 40 years said: ‘I can hardly express the extent of my injury. I came to the UK in 1979 and worked for the NHS. I felt betrayed, inaudible, indifferent. I began to suffer from Anxiety. 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.”

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