Over a year ago now, the United Kingdom in which I was born and live, voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. This was not what I personally wanted. As a person who loves other cultures and societies, travel and people from all walks of life, this event saddened me. It seems crazy to me but then most Brits don’t travel like I have and would have a different perspective on the world. I understand and respect that but I do disagree, so wanted to write something useful on the topic.
With this guide, speculation is unavoidable, as we don’t know what the outcomes will be but I wanted to write this post to help visitors, working holiday visas users, migrants and travellers understand what Brexit means here in the UK and how it might affect them if they come.
Personally for me, the Brexit result is something that has affected my desire to live and be part of the UK and I plan to move away, at least temporarily. It is not the main reason, of course. My circumstances have changed and I have other reasons but Brexit has dented my outlook and desire to be part of the UK. I expect that Brexit has also dented foreigners desires to move to or travel the UK. We must seem a more closed minded place than it did a few years ago but that is why a guide like this is a must read for any perspective travellers to the UK.
First of all, I’ll like to give you a perspective on how the UK is different from other places. Yes, it has a reputation of a rich cultural place, it is featured in lots of TV shows and films. It can appear glamorous but also the reality can be different. The UK is of course a capitalist and western society. It is more politically right wing than Europe and slightly less libertarian than the USA. If you share these values, you’ll enjoy living here. The closest relations politically are the USA and former commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand. Unlike these countries however, the UK still has lots of traditional hierarchies, so there is less opportunity for social mobility unless you went to the right public school, university or have historical family connections. We still have a queen, almost all politicians go to Oxford University, coming from a high-society family will open doors, as will being wealthy. There is less social mobility and opportunity than Australia or the USA who are famous for ‘The American Dream’, which is a core value that they support anyone and everyone’s right to be successful based on merit.
If you are thinking, like most people do, of heading for London, then think about where this city is at the moment. Living costs are extremely high right now due to limited space. Buying property is very hard for those on regular incomes. It is like New York but without the rent control to keep costs down. Work wise, long hours are expected in most jobs and generally stress levels are higher in people who live in this area compared to the rest of the country. Business wise, it is a ultra-capitalist area with lots of banking, finance, insurance sector work. It is a very office based economy. London generally voted against Brexit and has a very international feel, without much remaining local or Cockney culture, due to locals being priced out by gentrification. Moving here as a fashion photographer, or digital marketer is probably fine as an idea but moving here to work in a bar or as a barista is not the best.
Rest of England:
Most major cities are like scaled down versions of London, so with slightly reduced rents and a bit less stress in your life. My personal favourites are Leeds for value and being a great down to earth place, Manchester for culture and edge and Bristol for liberal values and friendly people. The councils are mainly run by the Conservative party. I’d recommend these places over London for most travellers to live, work and visit. London is not a very English place anymore, as it is so international. These cities will give you a better flavour.
Scotland is the most welcoming place for people to migrate to. People voted again Brexit in Scotland by 62% which was the highest in the UK . Edinburgh is a fancy and quite expensive place to live, with lots of tourists and international schools. Edinburgh is kind of like the mini-London of Scotland but I would recommend moving here, as it is international but you can get by on a bar job wage. Glasgow is more down to earth, better value and has more music and party culture. Glasgow is a real Scottish experience and you’ll no doubt meet many great folk there. Glasgow’s motto is even ‘People Make Glasgow’ celebrating the kind of friendly and fun people who live there. The Scottish government is currently fighting to try and stay in the EU and support current EU people living here and is run by the Scottish National Party.
Welsh people did support Brexit. It’s the area I know the least well but it is generally good value to live in and I was surprised they were so anti-immigration. People in Wales are very warm and friendly and Cardiff and Swansea can fun places to live, I’m told. They love Rugby, singing and their a proud bunch of folk.
Some Northern Irish political parties are actually propping up the UK Conservative party government right now and are working on securing Brexit. Although NI voted to stay as part of the EU in the public vote, the political situation is very complex.
(Yellow areas voted remain, Blue areas voted leave EU – dark areas = strongest vote)
Visas have existed and will continue to exist for those with Family ties to the UK. I’m sure the working holiday visa agreements between countries like Australia and UK will continue also. What is likely to change is that people with EU family ties, who could previous apply to live in the UK because of EU family heritage, will no longer be able to. As business ties grow with the old commonwealth and is relied upon to replace lost EU business, we may see a whole new stream of visas opening up. I know that Australia and India have expressed interest in obtaining new visas right in exchange for trade deals, so you may see it become easier to move to the UK from a former commonwealth country in the future.
The Scotland Situation:
As I mentioned earlier, Scotland’s own regional government is keen to remain as part of the EU. This is an unlikely outcome at this stage however. What we may see however, is Scottish popular opinion swing more towards breaking away from the UK and re-joining the EU. There was a referendum in 2014 in Scotland where 45% of people voted to become an independent country, so this is a very close thing in Scotland and could happen.
Regardless of where you come from or what your background is, I hope you do consider coming to Scotland and visiting some of the other UK cities and town aside from London. Travellers always go to London and I don’t think it is a very good representation of the area. That all said, I like all parts of the UK – I’m just not so sure that the majority of people here understand the world very well. That’s island mentality for you thought.