Since the result of the Brexit referendum was announced on 24 June 2016 the UK and everyone in it have been thrown into greater insecurity. But for one group this insecurity has been acute: EU Nationals resident in the UK. Their futures attracted almost no attention during the referendum campaign, but instantly became one of the thorniest issues in Brexit negotiations.

Professor Louise Ryan, (co-director of the Migration Research Group, University of Sheffield), who has been researching different groups of European migrants in the UK for almost 20 years, remarked, ‘Until 2016, most of my participants had never thought about applying for British citizenship, it seemed completely unnecessary. Overnight, the referendum plunged three million EU citizens into a state of utter disbelief and insecurity. This was compounded by the fact that they did not have any right to vote’.

The futures of EU Nationals have been used as the chief bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations. What’s more, although their legal status has technically not yet changed, EU nationals resident in the UK face growing prejudice, a deterioration of work conditions and opportunities, and myriad socio-legal questions and problems.

Within hours of the referendum result, the #postrefracism hashtag recorded instances of open hostility. These cases exposed a broad range of victims, including many people from Eastern European countries, but also UK citizen Muslims and people of colour.

A spike in hate crime during the EU referendum campaign has been sustained into the highest ever rates of religious and racial discrimination in post-Brexit vote Britain. Yet recent tensions expose ongoing xenophobia, anti-Muslim sentiments and a general hostility to migrants bolstered by central government policies and certain newspapers.

In the face of growing hostility, EU nationals are reappraising their position, many have already left the UK, and their future social and legal status, rights, employment and family arrangements are unknown.

For Christopher Cole, Partner & Head of Immigration at Parker Rhodes Hickmotts Solicitors in Rotherham ‘the main challenge from Brexit facing EU Nationals and their family members is uncertainty’. And more so for those EU nationals already in more insecure situations: ‘the main challenge is for those who are dispossessed, occasional workers, or benefit claimants to keep or gain a right to stay, and for EU citizens already here to maintain the same rights to bring their family’ explains John Donkersley, Solicitor and Service Supervisor at Citizens Advice Sheffield.

In March 2017, a workshop organised by members of the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield explored the broad ramifications of Brexit for migration and migrants at the regional level. Migrant experts working in support organisations, local and regional authorities and academics at the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield identified a strong desire for local events to help EU nationals understand their rights in a turbulent policy environment.

In response, the University of Sheffield Migration Research Group is hosting an informative, public discussion to consider what Brexit means for EU nationals’ legal, family and worker rights. The question and answer event will be facilitated by David Brown, Head of Migration Yorkshire.

If you are worried about what Brexit means for the rights of EU nationals, come along and have your questions answered by a panel of experts and migrant advocates:

  • Emma Brooksbank, Simpson Millar
  • Christopher Cole, Parker Rhodes Hickmott
  • John Donkersley, Citizens Advice Sheffield
  • Angela Greenwood, Sheffield City Council
  • Terezia Rostas, Roma Futures
  • Sarah Smith, Howells Solicitors

Jeremy Abrahams’ Remain/Leave Photography Exhibition at Sheffield Train Station is taking place in association with this event. View and discuss the exhibition with Jeremy before this event 5–5.30pm on Monday 6 November.

The event is free to attend, booking is essential. Places are limited.

This event is part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

The March workshop that led to this event was funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.


Dr Hannah Lewis, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield.

Society Matters

The latest in social science thinking from the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield. World class research, making a difference.

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The latest social science thinking at the University of Sheffield. World class research, making a difference http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/faculty/social-sciences

Society Matters

The latest in social science thinking from the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield. World class research, making a difference.

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