As the anniversary of the Brexit vote approaches, it feels like the right time to take a moment to reflect. The divisive rhetoric surrounding Britain’s membership of the EU seemed to focus on tightening borders and curbing the influx of immigrants into the country.
As the Co-Founder of a multinational workforce operating in Australia and the UK, Rune Sovndahl was approached by Reuters to share his views on the driving forces behind the rival camps campaigns prior to the referendum on the 23rd June 2016.
Two Sides. One Argument
The issue of immigration had been bubbling away for years. The unfairness and dissatisfaction felt by the UK citizens were said to be the driving forces behind the leave-or-remain campaigns. Both camps, it turned out, promised to restrict immigration. Brash statements were made citing that the UK workforce was being overrun by low-skilled and low-paid workers and that this trend will push down wages for British nationals. The uncomfortable truth is that the similarities between the Leave and Remain camps were as telling as the differences.
Fantastic Services is a company which prides itself on working with over 2000 partners across the UK, many of those being from the EU. Rune, who originates from Denmark but has lived in the UK for over 20 years, was asked what he thought of Brexit and how the topic of immigration was being used.
Scare campaigns brandished in the run-up to the referendum on immigration, employment and pressure on public services were not attuned to what Rune believed should have been at the centre of the debate.
He felt that bandying around the immigration weapon was unhelpful and somewhat irrelevant. Instead, he believed that there were more questions that needed to be considered by the British public before they made their vote.
“This is about should we stay and should we engage more in Europe.” Rune pointed out.
Behind the Facts and Figures
Behind the facts and figures are real people, with real lives, real jobs and real families. And some of those just so happen to work with Fantastic Services. Reuters caught up with a couple of these employees, to get an understanding of their perspective on the upcoming referendum. Krzysztof, a Polish carpet cleaning technician, was hopeful that the Remain camp would come through. His main concern was how, if the result swung the other way, he’d probably have to move his family back to Lublin, southeastern Poland.
“The chance to work in England means the chance of a better life, for me and my family.”
A similar feeling was expressed by a cleaner, Toni, who was born in Bulgaria. She had been living and working in the UK for many years.
“I worry just a little bit because this has an effect on us one way or the other. We have lived here a long time, we work here, we pay taxes. When we go back to Bulgaria that time would be lost.“
Critics and Leave campaigners argued that mass migration from some of the poorer states in the EU depressed wages and taken jobs from British workers. Rune thought that wasn’t the case.
The reality is that there aren’t a fixed number of jobs. As economies expand and contract, so does the demand for various services. After the recession, Fantastic Services responded by hiring both British and EU workers.
Rune explains “This is not replacing anyone’s jobs. This is jobs that wouldn’t have been taken by anyone else. It is not about anyone pricing anybody out, squeezing the prices down, this is about a new demand that wasn’t there before“.
We now are entering a post-Brexit era with the slow and arduous task of divorcing the EU stretching before us. Whether the fears and hopes of many Britons will be dispelled or justified, remains to be seen.