Going back, staying put, moving on: Brexit and the future imaginaries of Central and Eastern European young people in Britain

Daniela Sime, Marta Moskal, Naomi Tyrrell

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This paper explores the ways in which young people aged 12 to 18 who were born in Central and Eastern European EU countries but now live in the United Kingdom construct their future imaginaries in the context of Brexit. It reports on findings from a large-scale survey, focus groups and family case studies to bring an original perspective on young migrants’ plans for the future, including mobility and citizenship plans, and concerns over how Britain’s decision to leave the European Union might impact them. While most of the young people planned to stay in Britain for the immediate future, it was clear that Brexit had triggered changes to their long-term plans. These concerns were linked to uncertainties over access to education and the labour market for EU nationals post-Brexit, the precarity of their legal status and their overall concerns over an increase in racism and xenophobia. While our young research participants expressed a strong sense of European identity, their imaginaries rarely featured ‘going back’ to their country of birth and instead included narratives of moving on to more attractive, often unfamiliar, destinations. The reasons and dynamics behind these plans are discussed by drawing on theories of transnational belonging.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalCentral and Eastern European Migration Review
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2020


  • Eastern European migrants
  • future imaginaries
  • Brexit
  • transnationalism

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