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Five Ways Brexit Could Affect You


By Azu Ishiekwene

Former French president, General Charles De Gaulle, must be smiling mockingly in his grave. Twice between 1961 and 1969, he opposed British membership of what was then the European Economic Commission for two reasons.

One, he argued that the British did not see themselves as “Europeans” and, two, he wanted to maintain French hegemony as the “Third Force” to the US and Soviet blocs at the height of the Cold War.

Out of resentment, Britain led six other European countries to form the rival European Free Trade Association. When the association collapsed, even before taking off, Britain tried to join the French-led EEC. De Gaulle vetoed the request twice, but it passed after his death.

He would be laughing now. At the heart of the anger that triggered the “Leave” vote last week is the futile attempt, even after many decades, by the British to see themselves as Europeans. Immigration is probably the next big issue. A flood of immigration, especially from EU countries, saw 185,000 net EU citizens move into the UK in 2015 alone, with over 40 percent of them citing jobs as the main reason.

That was the last straw.

The shock waves have been felt in markets around the world. If there has hardly been any dent in the Nigerian financial market, it’s a reflection of its poor footprint on the global financial system. But that does not mean that there aren’t areas of our lives were Brexit could take a toll.

Apart from the English Premier League, a number of Nigerians form their impression of Britain from their visa encounter with the High Commission. For those seeking non-immigrant visas, nothing has changed. A Schengen or EU-wide visa was not applicable to Britain even before the “Leave” vote. The potential problem area could be the issuance of work or immigrant visas. Although Britain has a points-based system, which tends to favour highly skilled, multi-talented professionals, the number of work visas issued to Nigerians has been declining in recent times. In 2014, for example, while India topped the number of UK work visas, followed by Australia and China, work visas to Nigerians, Ghanaians and Bangladeshi declined. The “Leave” vote can only mean more work and immigrant visa misery.

Globally, remittances by migrants are an increasingly important source of cash flow. Some sources suggest that migrants may have sent up to $500 billion in remittances, with all migrants in the UK accounting for $3.2 billion in 2011. But remittances from the UK, including transfers through formal and informal sources, according to a report by The Guardian of London, could be up to $23 billion, with Nigeria accounting for $3.8 billion. A “Leave” vote that undermines the UK economy and reduces the job prospects of Nigerians in the UK could potentially cut how much may be repatriated. Even before the vote kicked in, there had been growing reports of “reverse remittances,” a situation where family members in Nigeria have been forced to support relatives abroad as a result of unforeseen job and economic difficulties.

School fees
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Education and Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Senator Binta Masi, said in February that Nigeria spends $2 billion on education tourism. Ghana gets 50 percent of this amount and Britain comes second, followed by the US and Canada. For post-graduate studies, there was a forecast two years ago by The Guardian that Nigeria was set to overtake India as UK’s biggest source of postgraduate students. Nigerians have built a raft of school enrolment related services, from exhibitions and tours to remedial schools and visa-assistance programmes, for those planning to study in the UK.
On face value, there’s no connection between Brexit and UK schools. But it’s there, just beneath the surface. The question more and more students and potential students would be asking is whether an increasingly insular UK, with heightened xenophobic sensibilities, is a safe and vibrant place to study. The fallout is more than skin deep. Last year, for example, a shortage of UK teachers in key subjects, such as mathematics and physics, triggered interest in recruitment from the EU and beyond. The current uncertainty about work permits in Britain outside the EU may not only affect student enrolment, but could also affect capacity to strengthen faculty. In recent years, Poland and Ukraine – benefactors of the infrastructure of the old Soviet bloc – are becoming destinations of choice for Nigerian students in the sciences, especially medicine. It remains to be seen whether Brexit will spark an exodus.

Two years ago, the Mail Online reported that super-rich Africans had spent over £600 million on property in London alone between 2011 and 2014. According to the newspaper, the oligarchs were spending an average of £4 million weekly on property. This excludes mortgage payments by those at the lower end of the market across the UK. Nigerians top the spenders’ list, followed by Ghanaians, Congolese and Gabonese. What does Brexit mean? It depends on the nature of the property, location and purpose of investment. If a number of top financial services companies based in London make good their threat to relocate, for example, property prices in the financial capital could drop. Nigerian property owners in high EU-migrant neighbourhoods, or those planning to invest for commercial reasons, may also be watching the market closely. A survey by KPMG earlier this year found that 66 per cent of real estate experts expressed worry that Brexit will have a negative impact on the market. It might be good news for speculators, but more conservative investors will be waiting to see which way the wind will blow.

According to a joke trending on social media, Britain left the EU twice within one week. The first time was on Thursday when 52 per cent of its citizens voted ‘Leave’ with their hands; the second was on Tuesday when the English team “voted” leave with their feet, after crashing 1-2 to Iceland in the Euro 2016 Round of 16. But the first vote might have implications for sports, well beyond England. With Brexit, a clause in the work permit which limits the number of non-EU players in a team to a maximum of 17 could now potentially apply to all the remaining EU countries, putting them in the same basket with Nigerians and other Africans. Part of the work permit conditions also state that “a non-EU player applying for the permit must have played for his country in at least 75 percent of its competitive ‘A’ team matches for which he was available for selection during the previous two years, and his country must have averaged at least 70th place in the official FIFA world rankings over the previous two years.” The hope, however, is that players from the remaining EU region could still be accommodated under the free movement of labour rule of the European Economic Area, a cousin of the EU.

Poor David Cameron. Not even his fantastically fertile mind saw this coming. For all he has done to make Britain strong and great again, he will be remembered as the man who proved De Gaulle right.

*Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview magazine and board member of tne Paris-based Global Editors Network

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