EU nationals' vulnerability in the context of Brexit: the case of Polish nationals
Since the late 1990s, populist discourse based on anti-immigration sentiments has been on the rise in Britain. This phenomenon reached a peak during the EU Referendum (ER) campaign and shortly thereafter. The ER has been linked to the upsurge in racially and religiously aggravated offences recorded post-July 2016. Polish nationals, who constitute the largest group of EU nationals in the UK, were targeted by many of these incidents. It could therefore be argued that, in the last years, and particularly, since the ER, EU nationals living in the UK have become more `vulnerable'. To test this hypothesis, this contribution is based on an interdisciplinary project that collected socio-legal evidence to compare the vulnerability of the Polish community in Southampton before and after the ER. The paper draws on vulnerability and psychology literature to differentiate between `objective' and `subjective' vulnerability. Our study deploys mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) to test changes in objective and subjective vulnerability among Southampton-based Poles before and after the ER. Our findings suggest that, following the ER, Poles felt significantly more vulnerable, especially in terms of subjective vulnerability, even if they had never experienced overt hate incidents or discrimination (objective vulnerability) before.