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‘Embarrassed to be British’: Brexit study reveals impact on UK citizens in EU

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The British Union Jack and European flags fly in front city hall, in Sangatte, France, March 13, 2019. (Reuters photo)

A major study of British citizens living in the EU has revealed Brexit's profound impact on their lives, with many expressing serious concerns over their loss of free movement and voting rights.

Brexit is impacting people’s “sense of identity and belonging," showed the survey of 1,328 British citizens who currently live in a European Union/European Economic Area member state.

The survey was conducted by Lancaster and Birmingham universities between December 2021 and January 2022, a year after the end of the Brexit transition period.

It offers insight into a range of issues including migration patterns, residential and nationality status in the country of residence, impacts of Brexit and the pandemic on future plans, family life, political participation in the UK and EU and understanding of identity and belonging.

“The report shows that the long tail of Brexit is evident in its continuing impacts on the way they live their lives and its lasting significance for their sense of identity and belonging,” said Professor Michaela Benson, the lead author of the report.

Many of those taking part in the survey highlighted how Brexit had affected their rights, as well as what this meant for the way they had been leading their lives or had hoped to live their lives in the future.

The loss of EU voting rights was a big concern, with 46% saying they could no longer vote in European elections or, in most cases, local elections in their country of residence.

Roughly 42% were also unable to vote in the UK because they had lived abroad for more than 15 years, although this is expected to change.

“Since Brexit I am disappointed in the UK. I am worried, and no longer feel like I have the same affinity for the country,” said a British citizen living in Denmark.

The research also found Brexit and the pandemic had significantly impacted on respondent’s feelings towards the UK, in mostly negative ways. Feelings towards the UK, EU and country of residence reveal a strong sense of a population who identify as both British and European.

Other respondents talked about the post-Brexit admin necessary to gain residency status in their country, financial losses due to the weakening of the pound against the euro and the loss of freedom of movement – meaning that a British resident in one EU country no longer ha the right to move to another.

The survey flagged a strong sense of the impacts of the removal of freedom of movement, including those unable to move within the EU for work, those seeking to retire to an EU country in the future as well as those who previously had been able to live part-time in an EU member state and now found they were limited to 90 days.

Though the reality of Brexit has been accepted, and there is little public demand for another referendum on EU membership, surveys consistently suggest that a majority of UK adults believe that leaving the EU has been a failure.

Just over 30 percent said they still felt very or extremely emotionally attached to the UK, compared with 75 percent who said they felt a very or extreme emotional attachment to the EU.

Six years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, Sinn Fein nationalist party in Northern Ireland won the election this week with the campaign of detaching from the UK and remaining in the EU as a united Ireland.

Brexit also has affected England, Wales and Scotland elections and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is also leading a campaign to secede from the United Kingdom.

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