When talking about Brexit, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty of politics.
But those who often slip under the public radar are the ones who will perhaps be worst affected by Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Euronews reporter Valérie Gauriat was in London to hear the concerns of some of them.
Like Joana Ferreira, a dentist working in a private practice in the outskirts of London.
She came here from Portugal, four and a half years ago.
Our team met her a few days before Theresa May unveiled proposals to protect EU expatriates’ rights.
The young woman, and her romanian colleague, were highly concerned about their future.
“I’m just worried about the living conditions, really,” said Ferreira.
“Am I going to be able to work? Am I going to get a normal salary, like everyone? Am I going to be kicked out of the country? I don’t know, nobody knows!”
Joana and her husband feel invested in the UK in more than one way.
Their three year old daughter was born here; they planned for her to grow up in the country.
“I just recently bought a house, just before Brexit happened, so I’m wondering, what will I do now? Because even if I want to go back to Portugal I’m not sure how to proceed Because now the house prices are getting down, so even if I sell my house today, I’m afraid, financially, of being in a worse situation.
I just feel very insecure of what’s going to happen in the future. I really want to know more so I can plan. Because at the moment, I cannot plan anything in my life.”, she said.
Dental nurse Alexandra has lived in the UK for the same amount of time as Joana.
She was working in another practice a year ago; and was fired the day after the Brexit referendum, with no justification.
It took her time to find a new job she tells us.
She enjoys working with Joana at the practice, where she was hired a few months ago.
But her fears that day were even greater than Joana’s:
“I plan to stay in the UK, but at the same time I’m scared. Because I don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” she said.
“You might be on a holiday, just a simple holiday and come back, and they might tell you that you can’t come anymore. You don’t have a visa, you can’t prove that you built something here, and they might not let you come back.”
Joana and Alexandra’s employer expressed concern: 60 percent of the staff at the four practices she manages are non-British EU nationals.
Smita Mehra, Managing Director of The Neem Tree told Euronews: “We’ve been very privileged because there have been no barriers to recruitment and barriers to working laws or working conditions. Now if that were all to change it would produce uncertain times, and so I’m praying that things won’t change.”
The new plan regarding expatriates put on the negociation table in Brussels, does not lift all uncertainties.
Business as well as people stands to lose out
It’s a crucial issue for the many areas of the UK economy which rely heavily on the European workforce.
The UK’s construction sector alone fears losing between 100,000 and 200,000 skilled and unskilled workers.
One of those keeping a keen eye on Brexit negotiations as they unfold is Azad Azam: his construction SME is already feeling the pressure.
One third of his employees come from Eastern Europe.
Such as, Florin, who’s from Romania. He started working for Azad 6 months ago.
“We did offer him a permanent position, as he’s done really well he’s incredibly skillful.” says Azam.
“And as a result of that the contract I’ve offered him is 3 years. He’s got a family back home, he’s got a wife, he’s got a child, and his intention is to make the UK their permanent home.”
“Unfortunately, as a result of Brexit we’re now in a position where the uncertainties created so many problems for him, we don’t know whether he’s going to be able to stay, he doesn’t even know whether he’s going to be able to stay,” Azam says.
It’s becoming increasingly hard to recruit qualified workers from the EU, he tells Valérie Gauriat.
“The impact of that now is that we can’t increase our workforce the way we want to.
If we put job vacancies adds in the British press, we get no response,” says Azad. “Nobody wants to be electricians nowadays, nobody wants to be a carpenter, nobody wants to be doing what Florin is doing, brick-laying.”
Demand for work has not dropped, and the company backlog is full.
But the Brexit says Azad, threatens the business he runs with his wife.
They’ve recently had to turn down some of the biggest deals of his career – a 2,5 million pound construction contract for a series of luxury houses – because he couldn’t find the workforce required.
Add to this the threat of the return of trade barriers and tariffs, and Azad finds himself between a rock and a hard place.
He said: “In the construction industry you have a lot of materials coming from Europe.
“Now if we don’t get the trade agreements that the government has suggested they’re going to try to get, then all these supplies and all of those prices are just going to increase. Then we’re not going to be even able to deliver the projects at the prices that we were previously going to, because everything is going to go up.”
Wider economy in jeopardy
The uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations is already influencing economic forecasts.
According to the Bank of England, the level of planned investment in the country could drop by 25 percent by 2019.
The Confederation of British Industry expects a strong slowdown in growth, by 2018 as well as a rise in inflation, which is already hitting consumers.
The gradual depreciation of the pound which followed the sharp drop in value after the referendum persists.
While the exporters are reveling in the price hike, many importers are finding it hard to sustain.
‘People carry on drinking through uncertainty’
Tom Lowe and his brother founded the independent brewing company Fourpure four years ago, on the outskirts of London.
Most of the raw material they use, such as hops, as well as equipment, is imported from the United States and Europe.
Tom told Euronews: “Our kegs come from Germany. Overnight when the Brexit vote happened, they went from £60 a keg to £70 a keg, that’s a £10 uplift. We had 2,500 kegs coming in at the time. So you know, you can do the maths…”
However, the brewer will not allow his spirits to be dampened by Brexit.
The company relies on growth to offset rising costs.
“I think as a small business we’re nimble enough, we’re agile enough to be able to make whatever comes our way work.”, he tells Valérie Gauriat.
“We’ve invested in a new brew house, and that will help with economies of scale. Our key drive at the moment is to be as efficient as we can and to try to make sure that we don’t have to raise prices too much for our customers”
The family business is confident:
beer, like weapons, says Tom, is a bullet-proof industry…
“People carry on drinking through uncertainty and also economic decline, or whatever is on the horizon.
We have to keep people fed, well.. watered, and we’re excited about meeting people’s needs, whatever happens off the back of the Brexit conundrum.”