If there is one advantage to having kids it is that it does increase your circle of friends. Humans need social contact, especially when going through the
misery joy of having your first child. We compare notes with other parents, we sympathise when they tell you their baby is not sleeping even though inside we are delighted that at least our kid is not as bad as there’s. We force a smile when another parent tells us how their little darling slept all night from three weeks. Bringing up a child is a surprising competitive sport.
Anyway, one of our baby buddies is a nice German couple. Dispute our local cynicism the foreigners I come across love living in Belfast. Sure, the buses never turn up on time and there is dogsh*t everywhere but they like the friendliness of the people. This German couple were happy working away in a local IT company, enjoying life in Belfast and all was right in the world. Until, you guessed it, Brexit.
Although it has not even happened yet the uncertainty is enough for foreign workers to start packing their bags. In the case of the German couple, they have a second child on the way. Before Brexit, they planned to buy a house in Belfast now there is just too much uncertainty. Instead, they are busy applying for jobs in Germany and Switzerland. Also, there is a feeling of the UK just do not want us anymore so feck ya we are out of here.
Their company has quite a few foreign workers and they are not alone in looking at the exit. Already the company is so short staffed that they are offering staff 6 grand if they help them recruit someone into the more niche vacant roles – 6 grand! To stem the exit flood the company is offering to pay the costs of applying for your leave to remain status. But anyone who has ever dealt with Home Office Immigration will know that it is a Kafkaesque process so frustrating it will have you booking your Ryanair flight out of here faster than you can say Nigel Farage.
You see the thing Brexiters do not seem to realise is you can’t magic skilled workers out of thin air. From Health to IT practically every sector of our economy has a skills shortage. The NHS for example would simply not be able to function is all the foreign staff upped and left.
I hear at a local college for some courses EU applications are down 20% already. Recruitment is also taking a hit with EU staff not taking up job offers.
The thing about highly mobile skilled workers is that they are er… highly mobile. They are already living the life of an expat, it does not matter to them if it is Belfast, Dublin, Amsterdam or Berlin. If your host country does not want you there are 100 other countries who will be delighted to welcome you.
Even at the other extreme of the jobs market for unskilled work farms, hospitality industry and companies like Moypark just could not survive without foreign workers.
But Brexiters will say it’s not about kicking out the foreigners it is about taking back control. That as may be but talk to a few foreign workers and get their take on it. Discouraging the brightest and the best from coming to the UK is economic suicide. Making the workers that are here feel unwelcome is just plain daft.