Do They Remain or Leave?

Status of workers in the UK is still a predicament, and needs urgent policy focus.

Six months after Brexit, problems from various spheres have begun to arise. When they circled a no, apparently, many Britons did so thoughtlessly. Unforeseeable circumstances have been especially the talk of the day for workers and the general labour force. Workers living in the UK, both citizens and otherwise face a unanimous question: What is their status now? Leave, or Remain?

Practically, UK’s economy has not suffered major shocks since June 2016. Although the pound recorded a decrease of 15%, the expectation that the economy will suffer a significant impact from Brexit, fortunately, did not happen. Even so, the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May has not taken it easy. She has been facing difficulties with upcoming negotiations with the disgruntled representatives of the EU in March next year; one of the topics will be the status of workers from the EU in the UK and vice versa. Although there are indications that they will be allowed to remain in the UK, according to Theresa May, their future is quite uncertain. She is also stressed that the decision will depend on the EU’s position towards citizens of the UK who currently live and work in the EU; and this is only the beginning of the unraveling the tangle called Brexit.

There are 2.5 million EU residents who now work in the UK. Experts say that Britain has a shortage of certain skills, which is why they need workers from other countries, like those in the EU. On the other hand, the attitude of most British people is that immigration lowers wages, especially in low-skilled work, which was one of the reasons for a ‘no’ on the referendum. The most likely solution is that the UK will up the scale of necessary skills, mainly for higher-skilled work, for which workers will be granted to stay in the country. In this case, the state will have to initiate various programs for retraining UK’s workers.

As an extension of this, in the EU, there are hints that the UK should remain in the single market if it allows immigrants to stay. EU’s officials have already said that they would give the Britons in the EU the opportunity to decide whether they want individual “associate citizenship”. If the UK accepts this on the Brexit negotiations, its citizens will be able, if they wish, to freely move and work, and to vote in the EU. In this way, the EU has shown good will towards the citizens of the UK in the EU, and surely expects the same from the UK’s officials.

In the meantime, as Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carny, has suggested that companies should continue to operate under existing rules at least a few more years in order to have time to adapt to the new conditions after Brexit. As expected, supporters of Brexit immediately rejected this proposal saying Brexit meant new beginnings. There were even talks of a new referendum on the terms of Brexit. But, the other side is also concerned with what will happen. Many questions arose after Brexit, and issue of immigration is just one of them. Immigrants have contributed a lot to the economy of the UK, but they may possibly be the first victims of Brexit.

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