British citizens living abroad together with EU citizens and others who have made the UK their home before Brexit are poised to tell their stories.

This is part of a project by Lancaster University in the UK which will attempt to gauge the feelings and tell the personal stories of UK national living in mainland Europe.

Participants reveal how they understand Britain and its place in the world following its (the UK’s) exit from the European Union.

One Finnish woman living in the UK told the research team: “If the (Jubilee) festivities had taken place before Brexit, I may have felt more of a connection to the Jubilee but Brexit has created a rift between me and Britain that didn’t exist before and has highlighted the perception of me as ‘other’ by those in power and many of those living in Britain.”

These and other views are featured in a new season of the podcast “Who do we think we are?”, co-hosted by Michaela Benson, Lancaster University’s Professor in Public Sociology, and Nando Sigona, University of Birmingham’s Professor of International Migration.

As Professor Benson explains: “Drawing on the contributions of those taking part in the research who had moved and settled before Brexit—and who, in most cases, found the terms on which they were resident changes through the citizens’ rights negotiations—we talk about what hearing from them about the monarchy, commonwealth and Eurovision makes visible about the symbolic boundaries and borders of the imagined community emerging in the wake of Brexit.”

Further comment comes from Professor Sigona who asks, “What does it mean to be British today? Who is allowed to be part of Britain in the post-Brexit era? Who is excluded? We will explore these questions with people who are more ordinarily absent in these conversations.”

The podcast has attracted thousands of listeners and the first episode of Season 3 aired on 5 May.

The series is, say the academics, a timely understanding of Britain’s migration story focussed on the concept of ‘Global Britain’.

Taking Brexit as a pivotal moment, it considers what the UK’s exit from the European Union has meant for citizens, migrants, migration flows and governance.

Prof Benson said, “It reveals an ongoing process of redrawing the boundaries of the imagined community and the role of the migration-citizenship regime within this.

“But it also looks beyond the borders to consider how immigration controls, policies and legislation articulate with the British state’s present-day struggle for legitimacy and leadership on the world stage after Brexit.”

A separate 2022 report by Prof Benson, entitled ‘British citizens in the EU after Brexit’, revealed a population which identifies as both British and European.

The report confirmed that Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have had a significantly negative impact on feelings towards the UK amongst Britons in Europe. Dissatisfaction with political disenfranchisement in the UK and abroad featured prominently among those taking part in the survey.

The report concluded that: “While  the  vote for life will be welcomed, more could be done to tailor the franchise, so that the extensive population of British citizens living outside the UK might have better democratic representation.”

The new season of the ‘Who do you think we are?’ podcast with Michaela Benson and Nando Sigona foregrounds a new understanding of Britain’s migration story focused on ‘Global Britain’, considering how migration governance has changed since Brexit and its impact on both migrants and citizens.

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