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Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Polish migrant settlement without political integration in the United Kingdom and Ireland: a comparative analysis in the context of Brexit and thin European citizenship


Following EU enlargement in 2004, the United Kingdom and Ireland experienced large-scale migration from Poland and other new EU states. The Poles who migrated to both jurisdictions were demographically similar and have faced similar challenges although these have begun to diverge in the context of Brexit. Previous research emphasized the intentional unpredictability of many Polish migrants who deferred decisions whether to settle or return which appears to account for limited political incorporation in both the Irish and UK cases prior to Brexit. This literature also examined how such migrants have become socially embedded but not politically integrated. Drawing on surveys conducted in Ireland and the UK during 2018, we highlight predicaments arising from the thin nature of EU citizenship which allowed for free movement but has neglected political integration. In the Irish case, we suggest that EU migrants, including Poles, are likely to remain detached from citizenship and political participation.

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