‘Large proportion’ of EU citizens plan to leave ‘unrecognisable’ UK because of Brexit

“A sizeable proportion” of EU citizens intend to leave the UK in the near future because of Brexit, a damning new study has revealed.

A survey carried out earlier this year by researchers from the University of Strathclyde’s found 58.62 per cent of respondents believe Brexit increased the likelihood of them leaving the UK.

The research revealed that the proportion would be even higher if it weren’t for practical concerns, like pension rights, forcing Europeans to remain in the UK.

Nonetheless, the study highlights the extent to which EU citizens’ sense of home has been damaged by Brexit – with data suggesting they are now feeling less attached and more insecure about their lives in the UK.

‘This country is unrecognisable’

One respondent said: “This was firmly my forever country. Now, much less so, not just Brexit although that is the main driver, but [also the] Tory government, corruption, hostile environment, rising inequality, reduced public spending.”

Another told researchers: “I think without Brexit we would probably be more likely to be migrating within Europe. Due to Brexit this is much more complicated than before for my British husband.”

“It doesn’t feel great when you give everything to the country that doesn’t respect you,” one of the EU citizens was recorded as saying, while another admitted that Brexit “changed my love for and view of the UK fundamentally. Since the referendum campaign, this country is unrecognisable to me.”

Among the most damning testimonies was a person who revealed Brexit had made them “unsettled”. They said: “I have never thought about leaving before Brexit. I had even written in my will that I wanted my ashes to be spread in the Yorkshire Dales. After the referendum I was so disappointed with the country and personal friends that my perception changed and I can’t see myself retiring here.”

The majority of respondents have a university degree, and 82 per cent are in some form of employment, with work the overwhelming reason why the majority of the respondents moved to the UK. On average, respondents have lived in the UK for almost 19 years, and 82.2 per cent live in England.

Andrada, who was born in Moldova and obtained Romanian citizenship as a teenager, said Brexit made her feel unwelcome and she was frustrated when she was not allowed to vote in the EU referendum as a 16-year-old in Britain – both because of UK’s reduced voting rights for EU citizens and because of UK’s voting age limit.

She remembers being asked by other pupils at school when she would be deported, and when her neighbors told her younger brother to “go back”.

Andrada, who thinks EU citizens should be classified as a minority, believes Britishness is about values such as diversity, a tolerant society and the freedom to choose in life. She feels completely unrepresented in national politics and in her home city in the UK – and believes diverse representation is “not the same” as having migrants in politics.

She is applying for British citizenship, she found out by chance that she needed Comprehensive Sickness Insurance to apply – a poorly advertised private health insurance requirement which the Home Office can base their rejections on, risking more than £1,000 in application fees.

Rights for EU citizens

The vast majority of EU citizens feels unrepresented in the UK society, the study revealed. This is at stark contrast with their willingness to get involved in the society: 58 per cent of respondents think non-British citizens with settled status or indefinite leave to remain should be allowed to vote in general elections, and a further 22 per cent think all UK residents should be given the right regardless of additional paperwork.

A majority of respondents also believe in residency-based voting rights for local elections, which EU citizens group the3million is currently campaigning for.

Many want to apply for British citizenship to feel more secure about their status in the UK, because of wide distrust in the EU Settlement Scheme, which the study says is due mainly to a lack of physical proof of status.

But amongst the biggest barriers to British citizenship for EU nationals are gathering residence evidence across the years required under current UK rules, followed by the prohibitive costs of applying and the inability to meet the requirements of days of absence allowed from the UK across a set amount of years.

Related: EU nationals fear private health insurance requirements could see UK citizenship bids rejected

Andra Maciuca

Andra is a multilingual, award-winning NQJ senior journalist and the UK’s first Romanian representing co-nationals in Britain and reporting on EU citizens for national news. She is interested in UK, EU and Eastern European affairs, EU citizens in the UK, British citizens in the EU, environmental reporting, ethical consumerism and corporate social responsibility. She has contributed articles to VICE, Ethical Consumer and The New European and likes writing poetry, singing, songwriting and playing instruments. She studied Journalism at the University of Sheffield and has a Masters in International Business and Management from the University of Manchester. Follow her on:

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