Brexit – Dommage or Damage?

Like many people, I’m still slightly in shock about the outcome of the EU referendum on 23 June 2016, when the majority of the British public voted for the UK to leave the European Union.  Perhaps because I’m currently and living in working in Europe, it feels a more serious reality than if I was living back in the UK.

Now the dust has settled a bit on the surprising result (yes, even those campaigning and voting for “Leave” were surprised that they had actually won), it is time to start thinking what the actual implications of the UK leaving the EU will actually mean in practise.  Lots has already been written on this, both here in this blog and across the media as a whole, but let me share with you a European perspective.

“Nothing will happen for at least two years…..”

Things are already happening…….

For UK workers currently posted in Europe and paid in sterling, rather than Euros, their actual salary has already decreased by 15% and counting.  If you employ “posted” workers you will need to think how you can help your staff to still feel that they are earning a reasonable, fair salary now that their money is not going as far.  You will also need to be mindful of how the exchange impacts on the minimum wage of the country they are working in and whether you are still legally complying with it.  (for example in France the minimum hourly rate is currently 9.53 Euros, which is now equivalent to around £8.20 per hour rather than around £7.33 pre-Referendum.)

The tourism industry is already feeling the impact, with potential UK holiday makers deciding maybe they won’t holiday in Europe this year after all.  The area I am working in France is already feeling and noticing this dip in potential income and bookings.  For countries like Spain or Greece where tourist numbers are even higher and their economy is also more reliant on tourism income this could be really serious.

Going forward there is also the question of whether UK citizens will be able to work easily in Europe, or whether they will need to apply for work permits.  Again, for the tourist industry and other industries that employ semi-skilled, short term staff on the local minimum wage, will it be worth their while to even employ or post UK workers to Europe anymore?

Things could also happen more quickly than in two years if some EU politicians have their way, so don’t assume that we definitely have two years grace.

Does Europe care that the UK plans to leave the EU?

In a word, “yes”!

The people I have spoken to recently about Brexit, including those working in local government, the hospitality industry and the tourist industry seem to fall in to two camps.  Those who say it is “dommage” – a shame – and those who think it will be really damaging to Europe, its economy and stability.  Even those who fall in to the “it’s a shame” corner think that things will be worse for the UK, and indirectly, for them too.

While it would be nice to think that nothing much will change and that we have time to get used to the idea of being “out” of Europe, I honestly think that the reality will be different.  As the old saying goes “be careful what you wish for…..” – it will be interesting to see whether leaving Europe is a dream come true or a nightmare.  Watch this space…..

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