1 November 2019 at The Quaker Meeting House, Liverpool
Much has been talked about and a lot of advocacy has been built on the impact of Brexit on EU citizens in terms of their emotional response and risk of losing their rights in the UK. This event showcased the findings of the project ‘EU Migrants of the North West: Continuation and Disruptions in the post-Brexit Era’ led by Dr Zana Vathi (MWG-NW, EHU) whose findings demonstrate that EU citizens are not passive receivers of Brexit, but react in emotional and rational ways, including through political mobilization. Policy makers are entirely focusing on implementing Brexit, whereas the EU activists are concerned with securing EU citizens’ rights. The event aimed to generate a multi-stakeholder debate on the mobilization of EU nationals, the institutional framework in relation to it and future relations between EU citizens and local communities as well as their transnational identities. What is the future of EU nationals in the UK post Brexit? How will their identity and belongingness be affected by the decision of the UK to leave the EU and any policies (or lack of) on their inclusion? What is the role of grassroots pro-EU organizations, state and non-state organizations in the UK in supporting EU nationals in the UK in the aftermath of formalization of Brexit?
With a collection of talks from academics, policy makers, practitioners and representatives from civil society, this event aimed to shed light on the implications that Brexit has for their identification in the short, medium and long-term future and policies that are needed for EU citizens’ inclusion.
In her opening talk, Dr Zana Vathi (EHU) emphasized the need to look more closely to the impact of Brexit on EU nationals mobilization as well as the more intimate aspects of their reaction to Brexit.
The President of the Consular Corps for Liverpool and Consul of Romania, Viorel Raducanescu, presented the work of and the potential that this institution has for the settlement issues of EU nationals in Liverpool. He also called for within group differences not to be ignored as EU nationals group is a very diverse one.
In her talk, Dr Ruxandra Trandafoiu (EHU) focused on the role of media after the Brexit referendum vote. Her research findings highlighted the shift from ethnic to civic online behaviour and the increasing role of social media in the post referendum era.
Councillor Cristina Tegolo talked about the very important work that the3Millions has done in the UK to ensure EU citizens’ rights are respected. She emphasized the transnational nature of the work of this organization, which collaborated with institutions in Brussels and British in Europe. At the same time, the new charity ‘Settled’ is doing outreach work on the ground to make sure those most vulnerable among the EU nationals are not left out the registration process.
Tim Beyer Helm (New Europeans and Worldwide Wednesday) on the other hand, focused on the role of local institutions, putting the emphasis on the Liverpool City Region. ‘We can create an international office for everyone coming to this city, not just the businesses’. He took a historical approach to identify the vulnerable position that EU nationals experience today.
Local organizations made a strong contribution to this event. Kush Chottera (Europia, Manchester) presented the wide range of activities that Europia offers to migrants and vulnerable people. Recently, they have engaged with arts to approach community cohesion, and are in the process of establishing a European Women Group, highlighting the role of gender in the post Brexit era.
Jane Brophy, MEP presented on her work on rights and social justice. ‘I will fight for the working rights of the EU citizens in the UK’ she vowed. The audience directed questions on the role of the European Parliament and the potential for more educative work in the UK to increase knowledge on the positive impact the EU has had in the past few decades.
A final roundtable tackled the topic of everyday life of the EU citizens alongside mobilization and fighting for their rights. Igor Puskarkis (Migrant Workers Sefton Community) raised the issue of EU citizens access to NHS services and the instances of discrimination. Paula Keaveney (EHU) highlighted the potential to lobby the Liverpool City Region. Weibke Ruterjans represented Settled and spoke about the importance of solidarity on the basis of the EU citizenship. Cosi Doerfel Hill is an activist with In Limbo currently working with the Citizens Advice Bureau to help EU citizens with their issues, as part of the network of 57 grant funded organizations that help those applying for settled status. ‘Vote leave is an assault to our European identity’.
Speakers and commentators concluded that the pro-European movement in the UK is the strongest in the EU at the moment because of Brexit. A summary of these talks and debates will aim to provide advice to the UK government, EU institutions and specific EU member states.