• Brexit feared ghosts of migrants past and present

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    FACTS may be ahead of fear alphabetically, and reality may be a few pages after perception in the everyday dictionary, but both fear and perception overcome facts and reality in a global economy sharing a common umbilical world-wide-web cord.

    Immigration was the ghost that drove majority of British voters to choose “Leave” instead of “Remaining” in the European Union.

    The belief that Britain has lost control of its borders and that the millions of refugees and migrants in the UK—as well as those knocking at the UK border—are taking more from the system than contributing to it, provided the strong tailwinds to the UKIP sails reach the neighborhoods of those who felt left out by the establishment faster than the Remainers.

    Membership in the EU was seen as a regulatory handcuff preventing Britain to be Great again, especially after the 2008 eurozone debt crisis and the bailouts that the EU Finance Managers in Brussels granted to Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus.

    Expanding membership in the Union to less-developed European countries resulted in the doubling of new migrants from Romania, Bulgaria and other poorer European cousin states. Migration Watch UK reported the doubling of migrants coming to the UK between 2012 and 2014. With 333,000 entering the UK every year, an economy that’s still in recovery mode and jobs that seem to be snatched by migrants willing to accept lower wages, 52 percent of British voters decided “In-ough is Enough” and chose “Out.”

    The UK Guardian’s analysis of where the Leavers won shows areas with higher number of migrants elected to Remain:

    “London, which absorbed 133,000 of the 330,000 net arrivals in 2015, voted the most strongly for remain. Manchester also voted for remain—and at 13,554 had nearly doubled the level of net migration seen in Birmingham, which voted leave.

    “The pattern is starkest at the local authority level. Lambeth in London, which recorded the highest remain vote of 78%, saw a net influx of 4,598, while Castle Point in Essex, which includes Canvey Island, saw a net inflow of only 81 new international migrants in 2015, but 72% of people there voted leave.

    “In Conservative Wandsworth in London, net migration was 6,295 and 75% of voters backed remain, while in Labor Hartlepool there was a net inflow of 113 and 69% of people voted to leave.”

    But Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson and the UKIP hammered on the migration nails to the referendum coffin and the Leave campaign showed the “hordes of immigrants” desecrating the UK border in droves.

    Who will be affected in the Philippines?
    The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries, the stock exchanges and the financial circles are not worried, convinced that the Philippines will not be or just would be minimally affected by the Brexit.

    Incoming Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno dismisses Brexit, saying, “Whether Britons vote to exit or stay in the European Union may have little or no impact on the Philippine economy, unless Brexit leads to the collapse of the EU—which is remote.”

    Diokno believes the Philippines will be insulated from Britain’s leaving the EU because “most of our problems—poor infrastructure, high costs of doing business, sluggish agriculture, and widespread poverty—are domestic in nature. We need to address them regardless of what is happening externally.”

    On June 25, Philstar.com reported that Central Bank Deputy Gov. Diwa Guinigundo “said the country’s sustained economic growth for the past 69 quarters since 1999 as well as the healthy balance of payments (BOP) position and higher gross international reserves would cushion the impact of Brexit on the domestic foreign exchange market.”

    Until May this year, the business sector had been bullish about the UK market potentials. In Oct. 2014, Andrew Tan acquired the Scottish whiskey brand Whyte & MacKay for £447 million (P31.7 billion), swishing it with the Philippine-based Emperador, Inc.

    The next year, Monde Nissin Corp. acquired UK meat-substitute producer Quorn Foods for £550 million (P38 billion). And in February this year, flag-carrier Philippine Airlines acquired six long-haul A350-900 Airbuses. PAL also signed a $600-million (P28 billion) order with Rolls-Royce, the iconic British car and aero-engine manufacturer, to equip each aircraft with Trent XWB engines.

    The UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (BCCP) report that bilateral trade between the UK and the Philippines amounts to about $1.8 billion per year.

    With a net foreign direct stock of over $5 billion, Britain is considered the country’s biggest European investor. Hopefully, with Britain freeing £350 million sent to Brussels each week (about £18 billion each year, according to the Leavers), British companies would maintain—even increase—exposure in foreign market investments including the Philippines.

    Currently, BCCP’s directory shows at least 14 British companies under negotiations to enter the Philippine market. One company, Paywizard, a UK software and subscriber management firm, has opened a headquarters in Singapore and an engineering facility in Manila.

    In a news briefing on Oct. 7, 2015, UK Trade and Investment Manila Director Ian Mansfield expressed optimism that bilateral trade between the Philippines and the UK would exceed $2 billion because of increasing interest by UK businesses in the Philippines and vice-versa.

    Mansfield opined that “as the largest European investor in the Philippines—the UK holds a net foreign direct investment stock of over $5 billion in the country—bilateral trade should improve, especially if infrastructure spending in the country accelerates, particularly in airport and aerospace solutions, where UK has expertise in design, engineering and operations.”

    Along the same optimistic vein, a soon-to-be-independent Britain from EU would be more welcoming to non-EU professionals and skilled workers, as opposed to what the Leavers consider a multitude of workers from EU member countries who can easily come in to the UK without visas and compete for available jobs.

    In 2004 and then between 2012 and 2014, migration from the European Union accelerated, following the addition of eight Eastern European countries, including the extension of freedom of movement to Romanians and Bulgarians.

    It was also during this period that international-student migration to the UK soared, particularly in the NVQ sectors. After discovery of abuse in the system (where students simply work after obtaining their study permits), the UK clamped down on unscrupulous schools, canceling eligibility to sponsor international students.

    The result was a drastic decrease in the number of study permits issued, and the order to deport students who have been staying after completing their courses.

    Partly to address the clamor to clamp down on migrants abusing the system, Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May announced a target to reduce net migration to the UK by forcing students to leave the UK after completion of their courses and apply for work visas outside the UK if they wish to return with employer sponsorships.

    Before the announced rule, students could switch status to work visas (from Tier 4 to Tier 2) and be eligible for settlement or permanent residency after five years of legal employment. That red carpet of settlement privilege had been pulled out from under an international student’s feet.

    The 2014 estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) say that of the 8.3 million migrants living in the UK in 2010, the number of those coming from the Philippines is among the top 10 arrivals in England and Wales.

    Top migrant arrivals between 2001 and 2011 (in thousand):

    1 Poland, 531
    2 India, 315
    3 Pakistan, 188
    4 China, 116
    5 Nigeria, 111
    6 United States, 105
    7 South Africa, 97
    8 Lithuania, 90
    9 Philippines, 87
    10 Germany, 78

    With Britain free to negotiate trade deals independent of the EU rules, the Tier 2 and Tier 4 migration sectors could open up, a favorable development to Filipino professionals, skilled workers and students.

    When all is said and done and all factors remaining as they are, from two years after completing the divorce from EU, the UK would be able to rid itself of apparitions about migrants.

    The Brexit victory by the Leavers would then be good for Filipinos who could resume applications for permission to Remain.

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