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When (EU) migration came to Great Yarmouth

In this working paper, we examine the impact of EU migration on Great Yarmouth, a coastal town in Norfolk, England.

The East of England saw the largest post-2004 migration in the country (excluding London) and Great Yarmouth became a host to many of these new arrivals. This movement of largely low-paid EU migrants occurred at a time when the UK was facing both significant austerity measures and when pressures on public services were increasing. Great Yarmouth had the fifth highest ‘leave’ vote nationally in the UK Brexit referendum, with over 70% of voters in the town supporting the UK leaving the EU.

In this paper, we want to show that Great Yarmouth has always been a town of migration but the sudden arrival of large numbers of EU nationals, exercising their free movement rights, in a relatively short space of time has created divisions in the town, divisions which may take decades to heal.

Using legal geography as a prism, we offer an insight into the complex and evolving realities of European integration – and resistance to it. We argue that because EU free movement is a process, not an event, it has long-term effects both on the migrants themselves and on local communities, effects which have not, to-date, been fully recognised and explored.

The experience in the town of Great Yarmouth is that free movement can, at best, be unevenly experienced for both movers and stayers and, at worst, has a divisive effect on the local community. Only by understanding the experience of migration on a particular community over time can the impact of free movement be properly understood, its consequences continuing long after Brexit.

A summary of the paper can be found on the UK in a Changing Europe commentary page here.



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