BrExpats: freedom of movement, citizenship and Brexit in the lives of Britons resident in the European Union

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

What are the implications of Brexit for Britain's estimated 2 million citizens (Home Office 2016) resident in other European member states? Will this signal a rise in return migration and with what consequences for welfare and healthcare in the UK? If they stay put, what challenges will Brexit and its impact on Britain's expatiates present for local migration governance and regulation in EU destinations, and for support services for Britons abroad? Finally, what are the consequences for how the British in Europe experience and understand their migration, their everyday lives, citizenship and identities?

BrExpats places such concerns at the heart of its enquiries, examining what Brexit - as it unfolds - entails for Britons resident, part- or full-time, in those EU countries hosting the large numbers of Britons. It is organised around three inter-related research questions:

(a) What will be the consequences of Brexit for the political rights, social and financial entitlements and citizenship of such populations; how will the consequences be understood, communicated, managed and mediated by institutional actors in Britain and Europe as they unfold?
(b) How is Brexit experienced by Britons resident in Europe, across a range of national and local settings; in what ways will this cause them they re-evaluate their lives and citizenship, re-negotiate their identities, (re)position themselves in relation to shifting political realities of Europe, navigate and manage the changing structural conditions that shape the possibilities for their continued residence and/or repatriations?
(c) When and in what ways do these populations feature within the Brexit negotiations, and how are their experiences in turn shaped by the ways they are represented in policy, media and decision-making?

To respond to these questions, BrExpats will foreground a sociological understanding of Brexit and its impacts on Britons resident in Europe, building on and contributing to three fields of social scientific knowledge at their intersections: (1) European citizenship and identities; (2) migration and migrant lives; and (3) British migration. It is designed to capture the ongoing interaction between the institutions, laws, policies, discourses and norms that frame Brexit as a process, and the activities and actions of these Britons. It synthesises past research by the PI and Senior Research Fellow (O'Reilly) on British populations in Europe (see Benson 2011, O'Reilly 2000), employing a project team including consultants from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and a dedicated research assistant, to developing new empirical research combining (a) expert interviews with institutional actors in Britain, the European Commission, and European Member States with responsibilities for these British population; (b) in-depth case studies in France and Spain-where the largest number of Britons reside-paired with longitudinal analysis and supplemented with citizens' panels comprised of Britons resident in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece and Cyprus, countries hosting the largest populations of Britons after France and Spain (Dennison and Pardijs 2016); and (c) interpretive analysis of texts, documents, discourse, media and policy debates, and decision making.

Academic outputs will include 2 conference papers and 4 journal articles. The project is designed around an continuous commitment to engagement activity and communicating research outcomes to practitioners, civil society organisations and policy makers. Dissemination activities include (a) a series of podcasts; (b) key trends reports; (c) a research brief; (d) policy roundtable; (e) articles in English language media in France and Spain, Migration Information Source, the Conversation and Open Democracy; (f) regularly maintained website and bespoke social media strategy; (h) pop-up exhibition and catalogue; & (i) a co-authored book, written to appeal to a broad audience.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
BrExpats has a range of beneficiaries specifically targeted through the strategies for communication outlined in the Pathways to Impact. These include, but are not limited to:
(1) Practitioners and experts: (a) National institutional actors in the UK, EU and EU member states (e.g. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Consular services, Ministries of Internal Affairs (or equivalent)); (b) Government officials supporting free movement (e.g. All Party Parliamentary Group for Free Movement); (c) Municipal authorities responsible for the management of migration and provision of welfare in EU member states; (d) thinktanks (e.g. MPI Europe; ECFR); (e) intermediaries and organisations providing services to Britons resident in Europe (e.g. taxation and pension advisors; health and social care providers); (f) Civil Society Organisations (e.g. New Europeans).
(2) British Migrant Networks in Europe: (a) Campaign groups supporting the rights of Britons resident in Europe (e.g. BrExpats in Spain; Votes for Expat Brits; Fair Deal for Expats); (b) Expatriate organisations (e.g. British Community Committee of France; Brits in Europe); (c) Internet Fora (e.g. British Expatriate Community [http://britishexpats.com]; Brits Abroad [http://www.britsabroad.com]); (d) Charitable and volunteer organisations supporting the needs of British populations in Europe (e.g. Cudeca; The British Charitable Fund)
(3) Press and media: (a) National Press in the UK and EU members states who have already published articles speculating on the future of Britain's expatriates; (b) Specialist media outlets and English-language media in Europe (e.g. The Connexion; The Sur in English)
(4) British citizens resident in Europe; and the general public, particularly those interested in popular accounts of contemporary political processes, travel writing and travel fiction.

How will they benefit from this research?
In respect to beneficiaries 1, 2 & 3, the research will aid in the ongoing assessment of the impact of Brexit on Britain's expatriates living in the EU, anticipating the potential consequences of Brexit within specific national settings, and for the British government in the case of a large-scale repatriation of these populations. Outputs will draw on findings to advise on what resources and safeguards might need to be put in place to manage these outcomes. The research will also be of benefit to those Britons resident in Europe (Beneficiary 4)-and broad interest to the general public, providing thorough information about the process of Brexit and its outcomes for these populations.

What will be done to ensure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this activity?
Consultants from the Migration Policy Institute bring their existing networks with institutional actors across Europe to the project, and will be responsible for messaging and dissemination of research outputs to these actors, through their production of a (a) research brief and organisation of a (b) policy roundtable in Brussels. The project further communicates findings of significance to practitioners, experts and British migrant organisations through a series of key go-to resources including (c) podcasts; (d) key trends reports; (e) articles for Migration Information Source.

The outputs that specifically target British populations in Europe and the intermediaries that support them include (f) articles in English-language media in France and Spain and (g) pop-up exhibition and catalogue. Further awareness-raising of the diverse outcomes of Brexit for British populations in Europe will be facilitated through (h) articles for Open Democracy and the Conversation; (i) regularly maintained website and bespoke social media strategy; and a (j) coauthored book. Written in accessible language and published with a trade press, this intends to appeal to a broad audience.
 
Description This grant has focused on what Brexit means for UK citizens living in the EU27. It approaches this through lenses onto (a) the changing legal and policy framework as this relates to citizens' rights-notably changes to freedom of movement and access to rights and entitlements; (b) through the consideration of how they are understood and represented in policy and media and with what consequences for an understanding of who the British who live in the EU27 are; (c) in respect to how Brexit is experienced in the lives of such UK citizens; and (d) what plans are being put into place at national and local levels for communicating and mitigating the impacts of Brexit on the lives of these migrants. I identify here 4 particular discoveries of the research so far:

(1) To date we have discovered that there are very limited understandings of the diversity of this population, with consequences for how their rights and entitlements are understood within the Brexit negotiations. It is unclear in the negotiations who has responsibility for these populations; the dominant image of these populations as pensioners has resulted in a focus on concerns over pensions and access to healthcare through the S1 entitlement. And yet, pensioners only account for 21% of this population. This means that issues such as continued freedom of movement within the EU27 post-Brexit, which are vital to the lives that many of these UK citizens lead have not been negotiated at an early stage.

(2) In talking Brexit with these UK citizens, we have documented a high degree of uncertainty about what Brexit means. Such uncertainty characterises not only what they thought about the vote to leave the EU, but also continues even now that an initial agreement about citizens' rights has been signed. It is clear that there are high levels of misunderstanding among this population, and poor systems for communicating verifiable knowledge down to a local level.

(3) Brexit is having an impact on individuals within this population that extends beyond rights and entitlements, and into questions of what it means to be British and European, identities that were previously taken-for-granted. However, it is also apparent that they have complex and contradictory understandings of Britain, Britishness and its relationship to Europe, continuing the previous ambivalence about Europe that the PI and SRF documented in their research on Britons living in France and Spain.

(4) We have also uncovered who is not considered with the negotiations so far and are exploring those who fall 'between the gaps' of this agreement. This includes those who would not be considered 'legally resident' on the terms laid out by current agreements about citizens' rights and Brexit for example, those who have led more itinerant lives within the EU, those on short-term contracts.
Exploitation Route The pathways to impact originally identified in the research proposal provide routes for the communication of these findings; we have supplemented these with targeted interventions aimed at the UK government and other key stakeholders through participation in the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) closed Roundtable and through providing evidence to the House of Lords EU Justice select committee. The findings outlined in (1) and (3) above were of particular significance to this ambition. Our contribution to the co-authored report (with MPI) to present to European stakeholders, will respond to (2) and (4) above, focussing on the need to develop communication strategies at a local level, and the challenges associated with regularising UK citizens living in the EU27, and urging them to remain focussed on the issues outstanding in respect to citizens' rights. We have been actively broadcasting the knowledge and understanding produced through the project through the Brexit Brits Abroad Podcast; project reports; and project website and blog content. These routes are aimed at changing the conversation about who the UK citizens are who live abroad and what Brexit means for their lives. We are currently in correspondence with Open Democracy about writing some articles based on the research for them, and will be co-authoring commentaries for Migration Information Source with MPI; these are intended to reach a general public interested in academic research and an audience including the policy and third sector.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://brexitbritsabroad.com
 
Description The project is designed around a continuous commitment to engagement activity and communicating research outcomes to (a) practitioners and experts, (b) British migrant networks in Europe, (c) press and media, and (d) British citizens resident in the EU27. Our outputs to date map onto the ESRC understandings of economic and societal impact as we outline below. Practitioners and experts Our progress to date has been mainly through the contributions from the project to wider publications prepared by the UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE). UKICE have been responsible for messaging of documents and reports, and for circulating these to policy makers and practitioners. These outputs are intended to increase the effectiveness of (emerging) policy in relation to the governance of these populations. The project team have also prepared written evidence about Britons living in the EU27 for the EU Justice select committee (House of Lords). At the time of writing they are waiting to find out if this is going to be accepted as evidence. They also presented the research at a closed roundtable 'Beyond 'Deal or No Deal': Planning for the Next Phase for UK Nationals in the EU After Brexit' (December 2017) organised by the Migration Policy Institute that included representatives from DExEu and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. British migrant networks in Europe/ British citizens resident in the EU27 These are the main audience for the engagements curated directly through the project. We have carefully organised the project to communicate with these audiences in a more iterative and discursive way; to provide useful information and to direct people towards verifiable knowledge about Brexit. These therefore meet the aim of enhancing quality of life, particularly within the context of what is being experienced by many of those we work with as anxiety-inducing. There are several features of this: the project website (www.brexitbritsabroad.com) and social media feeds (twitter and facebook). We have also been broadcasting a fortnightly podcast series (http://brexitbritsabroad.libsyn.com) - to date we have released 17 episodes of the series. To date these have been downloaded over 5000 times. Fieldwork summary reports - Entitled 'What does Brexit mean for British Citizens living in the EU27? Talking Brexit with the British in Rural France' and 'What does Brexit mean for British Citizens living in the EU27? Talking Brexit with the British in Spain', these initial report was produced first as a series of blogposts for the project blog and then packaged up as a short report communicating a flavour of the research findings. This is the first of the key trends reports we had planned for in the pathway to impact.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Brexit Fact Sheet on Citizens' Rights
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
URL http://ukandeu.ac.uk/explainers/citizens-rights/
 
Description Written Evidence to the House of Lords EU Justice Subcommittee (Citizens Rights)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/eu-justice-subcommittee/inq...
 
Description Migration Policy Institute 
Organisation Migration Policy Institute
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have been working with Migration Policy Institute to provide advice on the academic research about UK citizens living in the EU27 given the world-leading expertise of the PI and SRF in this field of study. This has included reading a draft of their initial report for the Barrow Cadbury foundation ('Safe or Sorry'), in which our research has been cited. We were also invited to participate and selected as one of six interventions at a closed roundtable they held in London (December 2017).
Collaborator Contribution The Migration Policy Institute have been working with us as consultants on the project. They have played a specific role in designing and conducting the research with expert stakeholders in the EU as part of Work Package 1 for our ongoing research about the impacts of Brexit on the lives of UK citizens living in the EU27. They are in the process of writing a report based on this research.
Impact - BrExpats participation in the MPI closed roundtable (not multi-disciplinary)
Start Year 2017
 
Description Brexit One Year On 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We contributed a short piece of writing about Brexit and UK citizens living in the EU27 for this short report. The outcome and impact of this activity are documented elsewhere by the UK in a Changing Europe who coordinated the activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://ukandeu.ac.uk/brexit-gives-rise-to-new-political-identities-new-report-one-year-on-from-eu-re...
 
Description Brexit Podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited to talk on the Brexit podcast about my research with Britons living in France. This podcast series, aims to 'help you make sense of all the nonsense surrounding the UK's decision to leave the EU ... to offer you some much needed clarity by bringing in the most straight-talking experts from all fields, as well as average people from all walks of life and from both sides of the issue, to document a snapshot of public opinion about this generation-defining issue'. To date, mine is the most downloaded and listened to episode of the series.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.brexitpodcast.com/tag/michaela-benson/
 
Description CUCR Blogposts 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I wrote two blogposts documenting the experience of returning to the fieldsite of my doctoral research after 13 years away for my research centre's blog (Streetsigns). This was intended to communicate thoughts on methodological practice. The primary audience for the output was the members of the research centre and those interested in the issues researched in the Centre for Urban and Community Research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://cucrblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/le-retour-a-la-france-profonde-shifting-scales-and-scapes-...
 
Description Dynamic project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the project, we have established a lively and dynamic project website. This works to engage with study participants and communicate with the wider publics interested in the fate of UK citizens living in the EU27. It is regularly updated with testimonies from UK citizens living in the EU27, with blog posts and outputs from the project. It is supported by the project twitter feed and Facebook page. Through this page, we have recruited most of the members of the citizens panel--89 to date--and we have had nearly 8000 views of the website since setting it up in May 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.brexitbritsabroad.com
 
Description Facebook Live for UKiCE 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In December 2017, UKiCE organised a Facebook Live event to talk about the progress of the negotiations so far and future projections. This has been watched by nearly 2000 people around the world and was part of the wider engagement strategy of UKiCE in showcasing their academic experts talking about Brexit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.facebook.com/TheUKinaChangingEurope/videos/1741590592814509/
 
Description Interviews for English Language Newspapers in Spain (2) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Karen O'Reilly was interviewed by both the Sur in English and Euroweekly whilst conducting research with UK citizens living in Spain. In the case of the latter, the interview appeared in versions all around Spain. On the basis of this publication, more people got involved in the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.surinenglish.com/lifestyle/201711/10/researching-brits-costa-20171110103702-v.html
 
Description Interviews for English Language newspapers in Spain (1) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Karen O'Reilly was interviewed by both the Sur in English and Euroweekly whilst conducting research with UK citizens living in Spain. In the case of the latter, the interview appeared in versions all around Spain. On the basis of this publication, more people got involved in the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.euroweeklynews.com/images/e-papers/1699-costa-del-sol-ewn.pdf
 
Description Interviews with English Language Newspapers in France 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Michaela was interviewed by the Local France about why British people living in France might have voted for Britain to exit the European Union. The intended purpose of this was to contribute towards an understanding that voting practices are complex, and that people do not only vote in their self-interest
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.thelocal.fr/20171206/abused-but-unfazed-what-its-like-being-a-brexit-supporting-brit-in-...
 
Description Migration Policy Roundtable 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact In December 2017, Migration Policy Institute organised a closed roundtable operated under Chatham House rules entitled 'Beyond 'Deal or No Deal': Planning for the Next Phase
for UK Nationals in the EU After Brexit'. Dr Michaela Benson was invited to participate due to her expertise on UK citizens living in France, and on the basis of her leadership of the BrExpats project. She provided evidence based on the research about the concerns of UK citizens taking part in the research about Brexit. The outcomes and impacts of the discussion were intended to consider what needed to be put in place to support these populations, given the changes to their legal status that were forthcoming in light of Brexit. The roundtable brought together staff from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, civil servants, the head of citizens' rights at DExEu, MPI and legal specialists as well as academics conducting research on Brexit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Podcast series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The project outputs include a series of podcasts. These aim to raise awareness of the key issues relating to Britons living in the EU post-Brexit;
and content has been drawn from the research as it is ongoing. To date, we have released 10 episodes, and have recorded a further 5 ready fro release. These are hosted on Libsyn and available to download through iTunes. UK in a Changing Europe also add these to their Soundcloud page for the scheme. We promote these through our existing networks, and have taken advice from our social media strategist and audio-visual editor about how to build our audience. To date there have been over 2000 downloads of the podcast, and we have received emails and messages from our listeners engaging with the content and explaining how it made them think differently.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://brexitbritsabroad.libsyn.com
 
Description Talking about the British in Spain on the Brexit Podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Karen O'Reilly was invited to talk on the Brexit podcast about her research with Britons living in Spain. This podcast series, aims to 'help you make sense of all the nonsense surrounding the UK's decision to leave the EU ... to offer you some much needed clarity by bringing in the most straight-talking experts from all fields, as well as average people from all walks of life and from both sides of the issue, to document a snapshot of public opinion about this generation-defining issue'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.brexitpodcast.com/tag/karen-oreilly/
 
Description Twitter Feed and Facebook page 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We set up a project twitter feed (@BrExpatsEU) and Facebook page ( at the outset of the project to communicate findings and outputs produced through the project, to circulate information of relevance to the British living in the EU27, and to engage with British populations living in the EU27. Our twitter feed now has 925 followers, and our Facebook page has over 200 followers. Our posts are regularly retweeted and shared on both platforms, and there is also some discussion and debate through these fora.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.facebook.com/brexitbritsabroad/
 
Description UKICE Blogpost 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I wrote a short blogpost for the UK in a Changing Europe about remembering the British in the EU27 within the Brexit negotiations. This emerged out of my observations of the reporting around the citizens' rally that took place on 13th September 2017 and the extent to which the British in the EU27 were largely neglected in the media coverage, a focus placed more squarely on the EU nationals living in the UK. At present there is no known impact from this activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://ukandeu.ac.uk/remembering-brexits-impact-on-the-british-in-the-eu27/