Despite the uncertainty of Brexit EU families feel more welcome and safer in Scotland than south of the border

The second report, authored by Dr Laurence Lessard-Phillips, is based on the analysis of 40 years of statistics on the population of EU nationals in Scotland

These conclusions are based on the findings of two reports being launched on Tuesday 17th September at the Cornerstone Centre St John’s, Edinburgh by the University of Birmingham.

The research project “EU families and Eurochildren in Brexiting Britain”, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of The UK in Changing Europe initiative and led by Professor Nando Sigona at the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRIS) with the collaboration of Migrant Voice and The 3 Million, examines the impacts of Brexit on EU parents and children in the UK.

The first report, co-authored by Professor Nando Sigona and Dr Marie Godin, draws on interviews with EU families currently (N=132) and formerly (N=40) residing in the UK. The sampling reflects the profile of the population of non-UK EU nationals in the UK, both in terms of its distribution in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and its composition with regards of their countries of origin. In Scotland, the Eurochildren team interviewed 18 families, including citizens of 13 EU countries (Spain, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, Poland, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden).

Professor Nando Sigona from the University of Birmingham said:

“While frustration, anxiety, and disappointment are shared by all participants, we found a stark difference on how EU nationals feel about post-referendum Britain whether they live in England or Scotland.”

Most interviewees in Scotland acknowledged that the atmosphere in Scotland during the EU referendum campaign and in its aftermath was not or less hostile towards them in comparison to what they heard or experienced in England.

The research points to four main factors that contributed to this outcome:

  • The words of reassurance that came after the referendum from Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government directly addressed to the EU nationals;
  • The victory of Remain which they took as evidence of the majority of the population being pro-European;
  • The positive messages on migration and the EU coming from the Scottish government, and
  • The perception of the Scottish identity as more inclusive than the English one, particularly following their inclusion in the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 and exclusion from the Brexit referendum in 2016.

Professor Nando Sigona from the University of Birmingham said:

“EU citizens in Scotland are worried about Brexit and what it will mean to them and the future of their children. But they also feel at home in Scotland, more than elsewhere in the UK. They feel valued for their contribution. More importantly, they feel they can belong to the Scottish Nation because this is not in opposition with being also French, Italian, Polish and European”.  

The second report, authored by Dr Laurence Lessard-Phillips, is based on the analysis of 40 years of statistics on the population of EU nationals in Scotland. The research found:

  • EU nationals who made under 1% of the Scottish population in 1981 at the time of the EU referendum in 2016 were just over 3.9% of the population.
  • The children of EU nationals born in the Scotland has been growing in significance and diversified over time.
  • In 2017, the share of births to at least one EU parent amounted to about 10.6% of all births in Scotland. In 1980s and 1990s, children born to at least one EU parent amounted to about 2% of all births.
  • Since 2000s the share of children born to two EU parents has also increased and from 2009 onwards, children born to both EU parents outnumber children in mixed parentage families (EU and UK). 
  • For children born to both EU parents, the main country of origin of parents are Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. In mixed parentage families, Poland leads and Germany and Ireland are respectively in second and third place.

Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice and partner of the Eurochildren project, said:

“This research shows that EU migrants in Scotland feel somewhat different than those in England. Whether it is public awareness or Scottish government involvement, but EU migrants feel significantly more welcomed in Scotland than compared to the rest of the UK. But, nevertheless the research also shows there are worrying trends, such as the declining socio-economic status of EU citizens, a fall in number of births and a falling EU citizen population in the UK due to the Brexit situation. Migrant Voice calls on policymakers across the UK to take note of this research and work to ensure that all migrants to the UK feel safe and comfortable, and have a chance at a good and prosperous life.”

The research is based on a two-year study led by the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) and affiliated to The UK in a Changing Europe initiative.

More information on the report and project is available at www.eurochildren.info

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Note to editors:

  • The report's findings will be presented on Tuesday 17th September at the Cornerstone Centre St John’s, Edinburgh. To register and attend please click here.
  • Confirmed speakers are Professor Nando Sigona and Dr Laurence Lessard Phillips from the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) at the University of Birmingham. Maree Todd MSP - Minister for Childcare and Early Years, the Scottish Government. Graham Blythe, Head of European Commission Office in Scotland, Professor Christina Boswell, Dean of Research in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Paul James Cardwell, Professor of Law at the University of Strathclyde and Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice.
  • Migrant Voice is a national migrant-led organisation established to develop the skills, capacity and confidence of members of migrant communities, including asylum seekers and refugees. We work to amplify migrant voices in the media and public life to counter xenophobia and build support for our rights.
  • Eurochildren is a team comprising University of Birmingham’s researchers in the fields of migration and integration, migrants’ rights advocates, community organisers and legal experts, and using a mixed methods approach, this project provides an empirically-rich and in-depth account of how EU families, often including both UK and EU passport holders and members with dual citizenship, experience and plan to respond to Brexit, a baseline from which to further analyse the process family migration decision making following the formal exit from the EU.
  • The Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) works to advance and promote the University’s expertise in the emerging field of superdiversity. We are the first institute in the UK and one of the first globally to focus on superdiversity.
  • Follow Eurochildren on Twitter.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.