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


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 []; Brits Abroad []); (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.


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