Humanities and Social Sciences

Central and Eastern European Migration Review

Content

Central and Eastern European Migration Review | 2020 | vol. 9 | No 1 |

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Abstract

This Guest Editorial introduces a special issue entitled Brexit and Beyond: Transforming Mobility and Immobility. The unfolding story of Brexit provided the backdrop to a series of events, organised in 2018 and 2019, which were the result of a collaboration between migration researchers in Warsaw and the UK, funded by the Noble Foundation’s Programme on Modern Poland. The largest event – held in association with IMISCOE – was an international conference, arising from which we invited authors to contribute papers to this special issue on the implications of Brexit for the mobility and immobility of EU citizens, particularly – but not exclusively – from Central and Eastern Europe, living in the UK. As we outline in this Editorial, collectively, the papers comprising the special issue address three key themes: everyday implications and ‘living with Brexit’; renegotiating the ‘intentional unpredictability’ status and settling down; and planning the future and the return to countries of origin. In addition, we include an interview with Professor Nira Yuval-Davis, based on the substance of her closing plenary at the conference – racialisation and bordering. Her insightful analysis remains salient to the current situation – in June 2020, as the UK enters the final months of the Brexit transition period – in the unexpected midst of a global pandemic and an imminent recession.

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Authors and Affiliations

Majella Kilkey
Aneta Piekut
Louise Ryan
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Abstract

In the summer of 2019 as the UK was in the midst of heated Brexit debates and Theresa May’s minority government clung on to power, Professor Louise Ryan interviewed Professor Nira Yuval-Davis about her recent book Bordering (Yuval-Davis, Wemyss and Cassidy 2019). Although things have changed in some significant ways since that interview, for example Boris Johnson has now replaced Theresa May as Prime Minister, and won a landslide election victory in December, 2019, and the controversial Brexit Bill was passed by the British Parliament, many of the issues about borders and bordering remain extremely relevant today. The current pandemic has not only revealed Britain’s dependence on migrant workers, especially in health and social care, but also exposed health inequalities among migrants and ethnic minorities. As the post-Brexit immigration landscape begins to emerge, the analysis of Nira Yuval Davis remains as pertinent as ever.

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Authors and Affiliations

Nira Yuval-Davis
Louise Ryan
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Abstract

This article focuses on the emotionality of belonging among European Union (EU) citizens in the context of the United Kingdom’s (UK) 2016 referendum and its result in favour of the UK leaving the EU, commonly referred to as Brexit. Drawing from testimonies of EU27 citizens in the UK (mainly mid- to long-term residents) published in a book and on blog and Twitter accounts by the not-for-profit and non-political initiative, the ‘In Limbo Project’, it explores a range of emotions which characterise the affective impact of Brexit and how they underpin two key processes disrupting the sense of belonging of EU citizens: the acquisition of ‘migrantness’ and the non-recognition of the contributions and efforts made to belong. The resulting narratives are characterised by senses of ‘unbelonging’, where processes of social bonding and membership are disrupted and ‘undone’. These processes are characterised by a lack of intersubjective recognition in the private, legal and communal spheres, with ambivalent impacts on EU citizens’ longer-term plans to stay or to leave and wider implications for community relations in a post-Brexit society.

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Authors and Affiliations

Rosa Mas Giralt
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Abstract

The UK’s decision to leave the EU illustrates some of the tensions embedded in European integration, enabling us to examine how nationalism and cosmopolitanism operate simultaneously, thus reinforcing each other. Furthermore, the prolonged Brexit negotiations have created a climate of protracted insecurity where the only certainty is uncertainty. This is particularly reflected in the migratory experiences of European citizens currently residing in the UK. Academic research has begun exploring the affective impact of Brexit; however, little is known about how processes of connection and disconnection operate simultaneously, nor which coping strategies European migrants have employed to navigate this state of in-betweenness. Using the anthropological notion of liminality as a lens, we draw on participant observation and semi-structured interviews to explore the experiences of Brexit and the coping practices of a range of (new) Bulgarian and (old) Italian European migrants. We argue that Brexit results in a loss of frames of reference for European migrants in the UK – which can be both liberating and unsettling, depending on migrants’ positioning as unequal EU subjects as well as their views on the nature of their future re-incorporation in post-Brexit Britain.

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Authors and Affiliations

Elena Genova
Elisabetta Zontini
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Abstract

This paper explores how people live together in different places in the context of Brexit. This issue seems more relevant than ever due to the continued attention being paid to immigration, identity and nation and raising questions about conviviality – understood in this paper as a process of living and interacting together in shared spaces. Building on my earlier research in 2012/13 and drawing on qualitative interviews conducted with Polish migrant women after the EU referendum in 2016, this paper explores the complexity of my participants’ everyday interactions with the local population in Manchester in the context of Brexit, viewed by many as a disruptive event impacting on social relations. The paper shows that conviviality is a highly dynamic process influenced by spatio-temporal characteristics, revealing not only tensions but also various forms of conviviality, in some cases sustained over time. It illustrates that, while Brexit poses challenges to conviviality, there are instances of thriving and sustained conviviality that endures despite exclusionary anti-immigration rhetoric. The paper also reflects on the possibilities of maintaining social connections and belonging in the context of Brexit, whereby some migrants become more rooted in their local areas and are likely to be settled on a more permanent basis, contrary to earlier assumptions that post-accession migrants are temporary.

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Authors and Affiliations

Alina Rzepnikowska
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Abstract

This paper explores the ways in which young people aged 12 to 18 who were born in Central and Eastern European EU countries but now live in the United Kingdom construct their future imaginaries in the context of Brexit. It reports on findings from a large-scale survey, focus groups and family case studies to bring an original perspective on young migrants’ plans for the future, including mobility and citizenship plans, and concerns over how Britain’s decision to leave the European Union might impact them. While most of the young people planned to stay in Britain for the immediate future, it was clear that Brexit had triggered changes to their long-term plans. These concerns were linked to uncertainties over access to education and the labour market for EU nationals post-Brexit, the precarity of their legal status and their overall concerns over an increase in racism and xenophobia. While our young research participants expressed a strong sense of European identity, their imaginaries rarely featured ‘going back’ to their country of birth and instead included narratives of moving on to more attractive, often unfamiliar, destinations. The reasons and dynamics behind these plans are discussed by drawing on theories of transnational belonging.

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Authors and Affiliations

Daniela Sime
Marta Moskal
Naomi Tyrrell
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Abstract

The fate of European citizens living in the United Kingdom was a key issue linked with Britain’s departure from the European Union. Official statistics show that some outflow has taken place, but it was no Brexodus. This article investigates Brexit’s impact within a theoretical (push–pull) framework using a survey of long-term Polish migrants in the UK (CAPI, N = 472, conducted in 2018). Our results show that the perception of Brexit as a factor discouraging migrants from staying in the UK was limited. Still, those with experience of living in other countries, those remitting to Poland, and those on welfare benefits, were more likely to find Brexit discouraging. However, many claimed that the referendum nudged them towards extending their stay instead of shortening it. In general, when asked about what encourages/discourages them from staying in the UK, the respondents mainly chose factors related to the job market. Therefore, we argue, in line with Kilkey and Ryan (2020), that the referendum was an unsettling event – but, considering the strong economic incentives for Polish migrants to stay in the UK, we can expect Brexit to have a limited influence on any further outflows of migrants, as long as Britain’s economic situation does not deteriorate.

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Authors and Affiliations

Barbara Jancewicz
Weronika Kloc-Nowak
Dominika Pszczółkowska
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Abstract

The main aim of this paper is to assess the extent to which the 2016 Brexit referendum impacted on the decisions of young Polish and Lithuanian migrants to stay in the UK or return to the country of origin. We analyse information from 76 in-depth semi-structured interviews with Lithuanians and Poles living in the UK, as well as those who have returned to Lithuania and Poland since June 2016. We find that, for our interviewees, the referendum had little impact on the decision to stay in the UK or return to the country of origin, giving way, instead, to work, family and lifestyle considerations. Only for a select few did it act as a trigger, either adding to other reasons which eventually prompted the return to Lithuania or Poland, or motivating people to secure their rights in the UK and delay plans to leave the country. We conclude by discussing our results together with existing research on transnationalism and life-course migration theory: regardless of interviewees’ decisions to stay or return, these were never final, stressing the fluid nature of migration and the desire of our interviewees to maintain ties across multiple places.

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Authors and Affiliations

Luka Klimavičiūtė
Violetta Parutis
Dovilė Jonavičienė
Mateusz Karolak
Iga Wermińska-Wiśnicka

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