The migration wave from the V4 countries to Great Britain, which followed the EU enlargement of 2004, allowed unprecedented numbers of the “new Europeans“, including Slovaks, enter the UK. Like most migrants, they were ready to work hard so as to deserve their chances for a better living, envisioned back in their home countries. From all the interviews conducted in the framework of our project, however, we have learnt that those intended temporary stays were prolonged and have eventually turned into the long-term ones, often with a life-long potential. The reasons have a common subtext: better job opportunities, better remuneration, chances to climb the career ladder due to performance (rather than connections) and to develop themselves in an open, multicultural environment.
On the other hand, these success stories seem to have formed a single factor that is considered the key to the results of the 2016 referendum, when the majority of participants voted for the UK to leave the EU. Although all of the Slovak interviewees agree that the British voters´ decision was wrong, there is a division line reflecting the time of the migrants´ arrival in the UK. This factor points out a significant difference in the views and attitudes to the perceived causes and effects of Brexit, which runs between the young(er) representatives of the migration wave after 2004 and those who emigrated in the late 1990s, or even earlier.
Lulle, Morosanu & King (2017) refer to “liquid migration“ as an offspring of Bauman´s (2000) liquid modernity. Along with the related notion of “rupture“ (Hörschelmann, 2011), the term for a sudden change, and the continuous process of “becoming“ (Worth, 2009) representing youth and young adulthood, they are to help understanding the social and spatial mobility of the young EU citizens, including the Slovaks. All of our interviews proved “becoming“ to be a universal phenomenon, regardless the migrants´ age, time of migration or personal views of Brexit as being or not being the rupture in their personal journeys.
Marshall (2018), Cohen (2020) Wihtold de Wenden (2020) and others to underline the fact that compared to the local standards, “the invaders from the East“ (Marek, 2019) were ready to work for a lower pay and to accept poorer working conditions, which had caused fears of job losses on the part of the locals. In addition, the events of 2016 are the proof that despite the lack of legitimacy of such fears – statistically, the locals were actually getting promotions as a result of the migrant influx, the snowball effect got under way and Brexit had finally happened.
All in all, our research shows Brexit has not altered the migration strategies of the majority of Slovak migrants, especially those from the post-EU-admission migration wave. They do not intend to come back to Slovakia and do not perceive any immediate negative impact of Brexit, while believing that such a “traditional country“ as Britain will sustain and deal with any potential trouble resulting from Brexit. The minority of those who hold different opinions have been presenting their manifold views and experience based on their long-term residence in the UK. These include disillusion regarding the once-believed openness of the British society towards different cultures, as well as an increased perceived value of the Slovak citizenship, even in the eyes of the long-term emigrants. Although not intending to change their legal status, not to speak of the place of residence, they suddenly view their legal/administrative connection to the home country as an important last thread, on which the European aspect of their personal identities is hanging.
©Petra Strnadova, ©Jana Pecnikova (Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia)