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Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Identity, Belonging and Strategic Citizenship. Considerations About Naturalisation Among Italians and Spaniards Living in the EU


The subject of naturalisation among intra-EU migrants has only recently drawn the attention of social science scholars. Empirical evidence from quantitative studies shows an increase in citizenship applications among this new wave of mobile people, indicating a strategic use of naturalisation. However, there is not a great deal of micro-level research, especially as to the subjective meanings attached to citizenship take-up in a new EU member state. Drawing on 68 in-depth interviews conducted with Italians and Spaniards living in London and Berlin, we argue that an individual's understanding of naturalisation within the EU context is based on two aspects: on one hand, a strictly pragmatic evaluation of the pros and cons of the new status; on the other, a new sense of belonging as well as new cultural and territorial identifications that intra-EU migrants are not often willing to experience. Therefore, this article suggests that EU migrants that strongly identify with their country of origin and the EU see national and EU identities as conflicting with naturalisation, thus setting aside instrumental considerations. This constitutes a critique to theoretical approaches claiming the diminishing importance of a nation's cultural self-understanding. Our paper also sheds light on the possible effect of the UK's departure from the EU on young Southern European migrants choosing to apply for British citizenship, highlighting that it is mostly the implementation of the formal exit process and the actual abrogation of EU citizenship rights that reconfigure patterns in naturalisation, rather than the uncertainty and fears about the future.

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Journal of International Migration and Integration


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