Living in London After Brexit
As many of you may be aware, there was a referendum in the UK on June 23, 2016 to leave the European Union called Brexit. I have been meaning to touch on this subject and share my thoughts about life in London after Brexit a while ago, but wanted to let the dust settle a bit before I expose my opinions. This blog post will be a little different than the ones I have written before, but because I wanted to give you guys my honest feedback as an expat who has been living in the UK for 3 years now, and let you know about the changes that have been occurring on the months following the referendum. And as this blog is also about life overseas, I thought that this would be a valid subject.
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So what does Brexit mean?
It was a referendum that many people in the UK (including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) voted to decide whether the region would continue being part of the EU. England and Wales voted for Brexit, while Scotland and Northern Ireland backed staying in the EU. The result, as we all know, is that now the UK must slowly leave the Union, making it the second nation (only after Algeria who became independent from France) to leave the alliance.
As a non-British citizen, I could not take part in the vote. If I did I would have chosen remain. I actually felt very upset and shocked with the result at the time and couldn’t believe this was happening, as did many of my friends and citizens who disagreed with it. I was so happy to be living in such a connected area of the world, that may have made me naive to think that people weren't so caught up with immigration matters.
What led to the referendum?
There were several reasons why this referendum was created by former prime minister David Cameron. One of the main ones was that the British public haven’t had a direct say on their relationship with Europe since 1975, when they voted to stay in what was then the European Economic Community. In the upcoming years, Europe has changed a lot, transforming from a trading arrangement to a political union, which gave Brussels influence over many other areas of policy.
That being said, David Cameron, as a way to gather more popular allies for his agenda, decided to create the referendum, underestimating the public resentment caused by the influx of European migrants to the country since the accession of Eastern European countries in the early 2000s. The result came as a devastating surprise for him, leading to his resignation, and now the UK has another minister called Theresa May.
I won’t go over all the details of the political net that brought about this result (or else I could be writing a book here), but as far as I understood, many people who voted for Brexit weren't really aware of the implications that this would cause, as many were misled by populist ideas that being part of the EU was killing jobs and the standard of living at home.
What are the consequences of Brexit?
Ultimately, those who voted for it will be the most negatively affected by it. According to The Independent “They haven’t lost their jobs because of immigration or otherwise these jobs will still be there – but because of technology and globalization, which the UK will still continue because they still want to be a part of the global trading system”. Speaking of which, as expected, the UK should create unilateral trade deals with the EU and other countries on its own from now on, and only the future will tell if those deals will be better than the ones it had before within the EU.
After the referendum, many xenophobic acts were registered in the country, which made me quite sad to learn that the general thought was that they didn’t want us immigrants around. I also feared for many of my foreign friends, who are very competent workers, that they could have the risk of losing their jobs.
The UK will have two years to negotiate its withdrawal, but no one really knows how the Brexit process will work, so all this uncertainty is affecting the economy negatively in many ways, starting with the devaluation of the pound.
In regards to immigration, it will definitely be much lower after leaving the EU. We are still not one hundred percent sure how the rights of European Union (EU) nationals currently living in the UK will be, as well as other matters relating to asylum seekers and other immigrants from outside the EU.
However, not all news is bad.
The positive impact that Brexit may bring:
In my humble opinion, I do not think that Brexit was a good idea, but I always try to look forward into the future and wish to see positive outcomes from this move, not only for expats like me, but for the population as a whole.
And, as mentioned before, now that the UK has the freedom to negotiate trade deals independently with each country, it may mean that they could take advantage of more efficient producers of cereals, meat, etc. and consequently it could lower the prices we pay.
Due to the lower pound, we are already experiencing an increase in tourism, which is a positive outcome for the region and its main touristic destinations.
Another hopeful thought is that Brexit will stop the growth of house prices, especially in London, making it a little bit more affordable to let and own houses here. For advice on how to let a house in London click here.
Regarding immigration, my hope is that Britain can resume control over its policy while still being open to its future prospects.
Only time will tell…