Skip to main content
Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Invisible Poles and their integration into Polish society: changing identities of UK second-generation migrants in the Brexit era


The article discusses what happens when a `critical event' exposes a migrant population to public view, leading them to reflect on their multiple identities and loyalties. Its focus is on twenty-first century Europe, where societies spread across international borders, offering opportunities for individuals to identify with two or more, and attempt to integrate sufficiently for their own purposes within each. Our case study is British-born Poles; the critical events are the post-2004 wave of Polish migration and the 2016 Brexit referendum. Based on interviews with 28 British-born individuals who felt they had emerged from `invisibility' and become increasingly Polish, we seek to explain their integration trajectories into new Polish society in the UK and society in Poland. These integration experiences are shaped by the complex intersection of generation, wave, community, and historical and geographical setting. Existing research tends to focus on tensions between the post-1945 and post-2004 waves. We show how tensions can occur. However, we also point to instances of successful integration, where British-born Poles update their linguistic and cultural knowledge, form social relations with the new arrivals, and perhaps most importantly, experience life in Poland more intensely than was possible before 2004.


Social Identities


Anne White (United Kingdom)
Kinga Goodwin (United Kingdom)

Article meta

Country / region covered

Population studied

Year of Publication

Source type