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Analysis

Tragedy of EU citizens fleeing UK is already unfolding

by Marco Niada | 24.10.2017

If the major concern of Brexiters was curbing European immigration, they can be reassured: the problem is getting sorted as Europeans are leaving spontaneously. Soon the government will face the opposite problem, trying to retain a skilled workforce that has benefitted the UK economy for the past 30 years.

Over 3 million Europeans are present in all areas of the economy, from finance to law, design, architecture, universities, construction, real estate, fashion, food, hospitality and agriculture – not to mention the NHS. By triggering their departure, the UK is committing hara-kiri.

The latest official statistics are annual figures covering the year to March, so they are out of date. But even they show a decrease of European net migration by 51,000 to 127,000.

Based on dozens of conversations I have had with fellow Europeans in London, which admittedly may not be representative, the Brexodus is accelerating. The mood of Europeans is souring. The initial surprise of the Brexit vote has given way to anger and a sense of betrayal. Most people I talk to are considering not if but how and when to leave, because the country isn’t attractive to them any more.

I know of at least a couple of dozen affluent Europeans who have left since the referendum. Some Brits may say “good riddance”. But will they be so happy to lose the spending power and taxes of this highly mobile group?

I know of two Italian delicatessens in Notting Hill and one in Shoreditch that have closed, because their profit margins on imported European food were squeezed by the falling pound. A successful hairdresser in Fulham who opened three shops in the last 10 years has shut one because he can find no more skilled European workers, and no skilled locals to take their place. He has also lost 15-20% of his clientele, mainly Italians, French and Spaniards who have left the country.

Meanwhile, there’s a serious risk of a brain drain, according to a poll of Italian academics by the Italian embassy. Italians are the second biggest foreign contingent of academics in the country. The poll found 82% are considering leaving or have decided to go. Only 18% definitely wish to stay.

Europeans who leave will discover new locations they like or find out that their original countries are not so bad after all. Their departure will then be permanent. In other words, once the emotional tide has turned, it will be very difficult to turn it back. Even if May negotiates a deal over European citizens in Brussels, it may be too late. Many will simply have voted with their feet.

The headline of this article was changed shortly after publication.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

6 Responses to “Tragedy of EU citizens fleeing UK is already unfolding”

  • As a friend of mine pointed out recently, the people and businesses which are leaving are generally the higher productivity ones. I’d be surprised if we don’t actually see the level of UK productivity falling fairly soon.

  • Just following a German expats’ language forum, its obvious that a considerable number are sick of it all and planning to return to Germany or elsewhere. The tragedy is that most came here believing Britain to be an open, dynamic and tolerant society. What May, Johnson Fox etc. need to understand is, it’s not just about some vague “guarentee” that they won’t be asked to leave, albeit they’ve been waiting well over a year for anything approaching such. It is a sense they are not welcome here, which of course has been exploited by the more ignorant members of our society.
    Europe is not just some random faraway place. Our history has been inextricably linked to it. Great progress has been made in the last 50 years in coming together, learning from the past mistakes of nationalism. Is Theresa May’s claim that she wants a deep and special relationship with Europe anything more than just words?
    I fear that this will come back to bite us with future generations of Europeans. You reap what you sow.

    • It is devastating to see our European friends leave, but they are the lucky few who have that option. I wish them well and hope they will find a happy and successful life elsewhere. Unless the reality of Brexit is made clear to everyone and an opportunity is given to change our direction most of us will be left with no choice but to watch our economy crash and burn for the next 10 years. The Government knows this, it has the facts about what we can expect but absolutely refuses to disclose it. It is a gross deception to not present the full facts. It was exactly this approach that left us with a marginal majority to leave and split the country so tragically. I am utterly disgusted with this government for creating such a diabolical mess.

  • Oh ,Dear, how sad, yes I’m afraid it is coming to the stage when the ex-pats of dozens of countries who brought their knowledge and expertise to the benefit of the UK.(and themselves) will say enough of the dithering about the future ,we are off.We will be the losers in the long run and then it really will be Oh Dear! HOW SAD!!!

  • I have lived and worked here for 35 years. My son was born and has gone to school here. I have not been a burden on this country and have always contributed fully and still do.

    However, if there is any inkling that my “status” should change to “second rate citizen” I will go. If I was younger, I would have made this decision already but as I have come to consider this country my home, I shall wait and see.

    How dumb is it of the Brexiters to put people like me into this situation? What is the point?