Uk

Brexit unease puts EU citizens off idea of staying in the UK

UNEASE triggered by Brexit has increased the likelihood that more than half of European citizens living in the UK (58.6%) will want to leave, according to a new survey.

The study also showed a majority of Europeans living in the UK see themselves staying here permanently or long-term, but a sizeable proportion intend to leave in the near future or stay only in the short-term.

It was conducted by Professor ­Tanja Bueltmann, director of the School of Humanities at the ­University of Strathclyde, and colleague Dr Alexandra Bulat, to gauge the sense of identity, belonging and representation of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit.

While the majority of almost 2500 respondents (73.3%) considered as “settled” in the UK, the survey said, “Brexit constitutes a serious ­rupture”, leaving 14.6% who intend to leave in the near future.

READ MORE: ‘We did not vote for this’: Ian Blackford’s plea to Scots amid Brexit disruption

“Brexit triggered a new sense of unease and uncertainty among a ­majority of respondents, with 58.62% agreeing that it increased the likelihood of them leaving the UK,” said the report.

“Data highlight that this figure would likely be even higher were it not for practical barriers that many see in a move now, citing, amongst other things, their age and concern over pension rights as the reason they decided not to leave the UK.”

The data also show Brexit has “negatively impacted” EU citizens’ sense of home, leaving them feeling less attached and more insecure about their status here. Despite that, 44.72%, still said they feel at home here.

The survey was designed for adult EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, or those with dual nationality, who acquired British nationality, normally live in the UK and arrived here before the end of December 2020.

A total of 60.4% have settled status, 15.5% have British citizenship and 10.4% have pre-settled status; 82.2% are resident in England; 11.8% in Scotland; 3.8% in Wales; and 1.36% in Northern Ireland. Most are from Germany, France and the Netherlands, but the research team said they had made some inroads into improving response rates from Eastern ­Europeans. The EU ­Settlement Scheme (EUSS) had a total of 4.9 ­million applicants, 53% of whom were granted pre-settled status.

In Scotland 56% of applicants were granted such status, in Wales 58% and in Northern Ireland 61%, with 53% in England.

The survey said much of the ­uncertainty related to issues over rights and what could happen to the EUSS in future, with “a clear ­scepticism” that rights might not be preserved as promised.

“These concerns are primarily a ­result of a lack of trust in the UK ­Government,” it said.

Bueltmann told The National: “If you look at the details on community involvement, for instance, there is some evidence now that some EU citizens have stepped back from volunteering as a result of their Brexit experiences,” she said.

“But that does not automatically mean that their sense of being at home here has completely vanished.

“Many distinguish between issues relating to the UK as a whole and their local environment, for example.

“Like in a previous survey, EU ­citizens in Scotland again recognise too the Scottish Government’s strong support versus the failures in terms of the lack of such support from the UK Government. Similar points are noted for other devolved administrations.”

Bueltmann said this is the first ­survey to clearly highlight ­“nuances” from EU citizens, depending on where they come from: “This comes out, for instance, in how some, ­particularly among Eastern Europeans, have a more practical view on some issues, such as citizenship.

“But these differences … often relate to length of time in the UK … someone who has been at home here for four decades or so may have stronger feelings about having to apply to stay than a more recent arrival.”



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