Brits abroad ‘embarrassed’ and ‘ashamed’ to be British since Brexit

Brits abroad ‘embarrassed’ and ‘ashamed’ to be British since Brexit
Credit: 10 Downing Street

British citizens living in the EU feel "ashamed" and "embarrassed" of being British since Brexit and Covid-19, a new study has revealed.

The new report conducted by researchers at Migzen in partnership with the University of Lancaster and the University of Birmingham, looked at the effects of Brexit and Covid-19 on British migrants, and how it has shaped their material and emotional realities as Britons living abroad.

Many respondents outlined how Brexit had changed their lives.

Overall, it found that Brexit had greatly altered the future plans of British people living abroad, with many having been arbitrarily faced with the choice of moving back to the UK or settling for life abroad once Britain officially left the EU.

One unnamed man in his 60s living in Belgium stated in the survey how he had lost freedom of movement in the EU, lost money as a result of the weakening of the Euro, and was now unable to move back to the UK because his wife is an EU citizen.

The general feeling of uncertainty among mixed British-EU families was echoed across the survey, with many pointing out how the changes affected their children’s future.

Another woman in her 50s and living in Belgium for around two years stated: “My kids are second-generation born abroad so cannot be British. As a result, they only have EU citizenship.”

The respondent went on to outline how if she wished to send her children to study in the UK, she would have to pay exorbitant international fees.

'House on fire'

Some of the reports’ most interesting findings are how Brexit has shaped the identity of British citizens living in the EU since the referendum in 2016.

A year after the Brexit transition period, the survey asked respondents to describe their emotional attachment to their home country and country of residence, and how Brexit had impacted their feelings on both.

Responses have shown how 80% of Britons living in the EU felt the most "significant" impact on their attitudes towards the UK, and were mainly negative. The open text responses are an insight into some of the bitterness felt by Britons towards Brexit and a UK they barely recognise.

One female British citizen in her 40s living in Europe said she felt “deep deep shame. Embarrassed to be British, ashamed that I didn't try hard enough, or appreciate my EU citizenship.”

Another British-Irish dual national living in Austria stated how she felt disconnected from a country that felt very different to how she left it, saying she felt more connected to her Irish nationality despite having never lived there.

Another remark outlined “It’s embarrassing what’s happened in the UK and what continues to happen. It’s like watching a house on fire from afar.”

On the other side of the coin, Britons participating in the survey expressed significant pro-EU sentiment, but this emotional attachment did not cancel out their sense of feeling British, suggesting most respondents were firmly identifying as both British and European.

Covid-19 nationalism

When it came to Covid-19, Britons who watched Boris Johnson's government’s Covid-19 management from abroad also showed similar feelings of disdain and disenfranchisement, particularly as it took more time for the virus to arrive in the UK.

A British woman in her 50s, living in Spain said: "It was shambolic. Too late, too little, mixed messaging, lack of seriousness. So many deaths after what should have been a head start."

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Another one commented on Prime Minister Johnson’s nationalistic drum-beating when it came to vaccinations: “I am embarrassed at the grab of vaccines and lack of worldwide care regarding getting vaccines to other countries. I am embarrassed at the 'we are the best, biggest, greatest, first,' nature of the reportage.”

The report has shone a rare light on the experience of Britons living abroad, giving them a voice that was all but forgotten in the Brexit debate.

It has demonstrated how the current Boris Johnson government, in both Brexit and Covid-19, has directly impacted the image of Britain for its citizens abroad, in a mainly negative light.

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