Navigating Brexit Britain: the everyday practices and experiences of ‘old’ and ‘new’ European migrants

A key characteristic of the European project has always been the tension between the forces of nationalism and the hopeful promise of cosmopolitanism. As Stevenson argues, ‘Europe is actually a site of ambivalence...’, a place of ‘…both hope and nightmare’ (2012:114). It has been the negotiation between those two poles that has characterised not only European integration but also its by-product – European citizenship, and the rights and privileges it confers upon its beneficiaries. In Brexit Britain these rights and privileges have come under attack, masked under the Brexit negotiation rhetoric of reclaiming national sovereignty. A growing body of research has started to explore the ways in which Brexit has ‘unsettled’ and repositioned different groups of Europeans in the UK, transforming ‘EU citizens’ into ‘migrants’ (see Lulle 2017, McGhee 2017, Special issue of Population, Space and Place 2018). However, still little is known about the everyday practices and concrete decisions that migrants have started to implement to navigate this changed landscape. This paper focuses on this aspect, paying particular attention to the ways in which such bottom up practices contribute to (re-)define or not, European citizenship.  We do so by looking comparatively through a transnational and intersectional lens at the experiences of both ‘old’ (Italians) and ‘new’ (Bulgarian) Europeans. Our on-going ethnographic research is set in the Leave area of the East Midlands.

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