Our report Brexit and the British in France documents how Britons living in France have experienced this period of profound and protracted uncertainty. Nearly four years after the Referendum, it confirms that Brexit is far from over for these British citizens.
Britons living in France still feel in the dark about what Brexit means for their lives
France hosts the second largest number of UK nationals in the EU27, and is home to approximately 150,000 Britons. Official communications from the UK and French governments were slow to clarify what Britons living in France should do to secure their futures, and many have been unclear about where to turn for reliable information about specific concerns. They feel let down by the UK Government, while their encounters with the French state, often in local municipal offices, have created further confusion as local officers similarly find themselves lacking in the relevant information to give appropriate advice. This has left Britons in France with a sense that they are nobody’s responsibility but their own.
Britons in France are responding to Brexit by taking matters into their own hands – but the results are uneven
Faced with a lack of clear information, unresolved questions and confusion over new residency requirements, Britons in France have taken matters into their own hands in order to secure their futures, for example by applying for residence permits or French citizenship. While some easily overcome the obstacles presented by the changing landscape of rights and entitlements brought on by Brexit, it is not so straightforward for others. It is clear that Brexit has already had uneven outcomes and consequences for the lives of British citizens living in France, not least because before the referendum very few Britons living in France had residence permits and French officials have struggled with the surge in applications.
Britons in France are questioning their previously taken-for-granted identities
Brexit has brought to the fore questions about identity and belonging, the relationship of these Britons to Britain and Britishness, but also to Europe and Europeanness. These questions are mediated by their social relationships in the UK and in France. Participants’ perceptions of how the UK government has dealt (or failed to deal) with the concerns and issues that Brexit has raised for them also shape how they understand their continuing relationship to Britain.
Our report Brexit and the British in Spain documents how Britons living in Spain have experienced this period of profound and protracted uncertainty. Nearly four years after the Referendum, it confirms that Brexit is far from over for these British citizens.
Britons in Spain are confused, fearful and in the dark about the post-Brexit future
Our participants have spent three years feeling confused and fearful, having often received inadequate or misleading information (although information has become clearer over time). Even now, in 2020, people are still confused about regulations, unsure where to go for advice, and sometimes given misleading advice. This is partly because many people have complex family and living arrangements that are difficult to resolve with simple regulations, meaning that the implications of Brexit on their lives are not well understood.
UK nationals in Spain are still treated as “tourists”
With between 300,000 and a million British people living at least some of the year in Spain, the uncertainties of Brexit have created an urgent need for a more nuanced understanding of the complexity and diversity of Britons’ living, working and family arrangements in Spain. Many Britons in Spain are not getting the support they need because the UK and Spanish governments (and UK and Spanish media) still treat them as “long-term tourists”, even though the classic stereotype of the older, white, retired and working class British expat is well out of date. Today, there are British people of all ages and backgrounds living in every part of Spain, including young people, fluent in Spanish, working in cities and bringing up children. This gap in the understanding of their lives means that the needs of Britons in Spain are persistently overlooked, denied or dismissed.
A lack of clarity from Spanish authorities
The complexity of people’s lives means simple rules and regulations based on legal rights or duties are rarely adequate in practice. Many Britons in Spain are not officially registered as Spanish residents, in part because Spanish authorities have tended to interpret free movement policies in different ways in different areas. In addition, British migration to Spain has always included part-time, temporary and seasonal visitors for whom the regulations are unclear.