‘Embarrassed to be British’ say Brits living in EU

Many Britons living in the EU feel disconnected from and embarrassed by their country since Brexit, according to new research published on Wednesday. [Shutterstock/ratlos]

Many Britons living in the EU feel disconnected from and embarrassed by their country since Brexit, according to new research published on Wednesday.

The survey by Lancaster and Birmingham universities, into British citizens living in the EU after Brexit, is based on the responses of 1328 British citizens who currently live in the European Union or European Economic Area.

“Deep deep shame. Embarrassed to be British, ashamed that I didn’t try hard enough, or appreciate my EU citizenship,” said one female British citizen in Norway.

“Since Brexit I am disappointed in the UK. I am worried, and no longer feel like I have the same affinity for the country,” added another respondent living in Denmark.

Similar disappointment was expressed about Boris Johnson’s government, and its handling of the Brexit negotiations and EU relations and the COVID pandemic.

Many respondents complained that the loss of free movement as a result of the UK’s exit from the single market had been “experienced as becoming more immobile, stuck in place in ways that they were not previously and deep transformations as to how they had been living their lives,” according to the report.

“The report shows that, while the public narrative suggests that Brexit is done and dusted, it has brought the deep transformations to the lives of British citizens living in the EU and EEA. 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, lead author of the report.

The research notes that most UK nationals living in the EU opposed Brexit, and that Brexit has had the most significant impact on their feelings towards the UK, with 80% responding that it had impacted a great deal or a lot.

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.

Along with the loss of frictionless trade when the UK replaced single market membership for its Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, the voting and citizenship rights of the estimated 1.3 million UK counterparts across Europe were also thrown into confusion after the UK formally exited the bloc in January 2020,

59% of the respondents had been living in their country of residence for more than 5 years, and the vast majority, 78%, said that it was very unlikely that they would live elsewhere in the coming years. 73% who stressed that they planned to settle permanently in their current place of residence.

Since June 2016, almost two thirds of respondents had changed their legal status in their country of residence. 60% were hoping to become permanent residents and 34% citizens of their country of residence.

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