Political mobilisation of European citizens and the emergence of EU diaspora in the UK post-Brexit: reflections from the North West – with Dr Zana Vathi

30th April 2021. We were pleased to welcome Zana Vathi, Reader in Social Sciences at Edge Hill University and Director of the Migration Working Group – North West. She specialises in migration studies and has been doing research in this field since 2005. Her main areas of interest are migrants’ inclusion and politics of integration in Europe.


What is the future of European citizens in the UK? Little attention has been paid to the impact of Brexit on their political allegiances and processes of mobilisation. Understanding these processes is important as they form the basis for diaspora formation, following critical geopolitical events.

Indeed, the 2016 Referendum has triggered a variety of forms of political engagement among European citizens. Our research, carried out in Liverpool and Southport in the North West of England, an area that has received little attention so far, demonstrates that Brexit sparked a new awareness of public discourse, has led to the emergence of new political and discursive attitudes and strategies, as well as persuasive reflexivity and incipient activism on the part of European citizens.

The project included participants from 18 different EU countries, which afforded the investigation of dynamics and different positionalities within the EU population in the UK. These positionalities, as the findings show, are broadly organized around a typology that is underpinned by the (geo)politics of the EU: national and regional stances; EU-oriented stances; non-alignment. While Brexit triggered a stronger European identity and mobilisation on the basis of it, the orientation towards, and investment in, the EU diasporic mobilisation among European citizens differs due to these positionalities. The findings therefore could indicate the development of different gravity diaspora points in future, nested in the EU diaspora.

On the other hand, there are significant differences in demographics and social capital within the EU population across the UK. Their settlement across the country is linked to the local contexts’ socio-economic indicators pre-Brexit, which also affect the potential to engage politically post-Brexit. These socio-economic differences have implications for the local and regional dimensions of the EU diaspora in the UK and its legacy in the medium and long term.


Discussants: 

  • Roger Casale, New Europeans
  • Grete Smith, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), and community organiser