In the past year, one million and three hundred thousand foreigners have left the United Kingdom, according to a report by the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence. And on the horizon there lies the nightmare of the detachment of Scotland.
One million and three hundred thousand foreigners have left the United Kingdom in the last year. Seven hundred thousand left London alone - an 8 percent decline for the capital's inhabitants in 2020. Nationally, this is the largest decline in the British population since World War II. Experts attribute the cause to two phenomena manifested one after the other: Brexit and the Covid. A “one-two" punch, one might call it in fighting terms, that has knocked the country down to the mat.
Of course Britain has the potential to get back on its feet. But the days of it’s nickname "Cool Britannia," in the years of Blairism prior to the controversial decision to go to war alongside George W. Bush's America in Iraq, seem far away. Bush in Iraq, was an event that changed Britain’s recent history. At the time, it had the strongest economic growth in Europe, attracted immigrants from every corner of the continent and was still a full part of the united Europe, albeit with the divergences (outside the Eurozone and outside Schengen) that should have been enough to satisfy its ambition to remain distinct and different.
It is the report by the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence, a study center funded by Boris Johnn's government, published this week by the Financial Times, that displays the dimensions of the "flight from London".
In part, it is the playing out of a a foreseen regression. Estimates predicted that a substantial number of foreign residents would leave the British Isles, driven by the uncertainty caused by Brexit, i.e. the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, by the economic difficulties that would result, already evident in the slowdown of exports, down by one third due to increased red tape even where customs duties have not come into force, and then by the recession caused by the second, parallel and even harder hit from the coronavirus.
Packing up are mainly residents of the 27 EU countries, in truth. However, statistics show that now foreigners are arriving from other regions of the world, called in part to those who are leaving, because Britain still needs manpower - after all, at the time of the referendum on Brexit, in 2016, it had the lowest unemployment in Europe (below 4 percent), a rate that made it seem that only those who did not find work, were not looking for it. Now, with the pandemic, the specter of mass unemployment is hovering in Britain as well.
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The exodus of the "foreign legion" is in fact primarily due to the crisis in the hospitality sector, the most affected by Covid and lockdowns: cafes, restaurants and hotels in these parts relied heavily on foreign workers, who now, left without employment and salary, often have no choice but to return home. But the phenomenon also has other aspects. For example, smart working that allows remote work (so why not from Barcelona or Nice) and in general the idea that, without its museums, theaters and restaurants, London at this moment is just a more expensive city, and more at risk of contagion, than many other places. It is precisely from London that a renaissance could start, focusing on creative industries, digital start-ups and green economy, not just finance.
Sooner or later, the capital will shine again and feel "cool", fashionable and trendy. As for Great Britain as a whole, the after Coronavirus era looms full of unknowns. Will there be a secession of Scotland, which with the excuse of returning to the EU hopes to realize a dream of independence? Citing similar motivations, will Northern Ireland secede and reunite with the Republic of Ireland? And above all, consider this question posed by Philip Stephens, a Financial Times columnist: what place will England adopt in the global world?