Malaysians in Britain carry on post-Brexit

Fond farewell: British MEPs (members of the European Parliament) carrying a Union flag as they leave the European Parliament building in Brussels on Friday. — AP

The general view is that this historic development will affect students the most while it could give Malaysians a boost in employment.

WITH Britain officially having exited the European Union on Friday, residents will have to begin adjusting to life as non-EU citizens.

Although for now daily life in Britain is expected to be more or less the same until January 2021, when Britain will begin to function independently of EU laws, there is still a lot of uncertainty in store.

While British and European citizens are expected to experience the biggest change, Malaysians living in Britain will also need to adapt to this historic move. As of December last year, there were about 75,000 Malaysians living and working in Britain, including 19,000 students.

From now until Dec 31, Britain is in a “transition period” and will retain most EU legislation while negotiating future relations with its European neighbours encompassing trade, security, labour, finances, diplomacy and other concerns.

While some Malaysians see this as an opportunity for Malaysia and Britain to boost ties, others are worried that the exit will impact their spending and ability to travel. Simply put, Malaysians are treating Brexit like a mixed bag.

Embracing a silver lining, a consultant who wants to be known only as Adrian is of the view that Brexit will be a boon for Malaysians as they can now compete with Europeans on a level playing field in terms of work opportunities.

“At present, companies prefer to hire graduates who are from Europe because they do not need a visa to work in the UK.

I have many friends who are qualified for roles but were not hired because a particular company wasn’t able to sponsor their visa, ” says Adrian over social media; he works in London.

Despite the uncertainty, Adrian is keeping a cool head as he does not expect Brexit to have a major impact on his daily life.

“As someone working here, my main concern is the strength of the pound. For all we know, it could go either way. Everyone I know seems to be relaxed about the whole affair. No panic, ” he says.

Meanwhile, postgraduate student Nyoomi Kamani is concerned about the restricted mobility on the European continent that will come with Brexit.

“My brother is residing in Germany and, currently, I am able to visit him with ease. With Brexit, I hope that my to-and-fro travel is not affected, ” Nyoomi says in an online interview.

A major concern, particularly among students, is the financial impact that Brexit could have.

Nyoomi worries that she will not be able to use her British bank card at a preferential rate when she visits Europe.

“Additionally, students are advised to further tighten their belts because food prices are predicted to increase, ” says Nyoomi, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Bristol under the British government’s global scholarship programme, Chevening.

“I read a government report on Brexit which stated that medicines in some cases could be sold out and to anticipate this, I am currently stocking up on medicines as well as food due to fears regarding food shortages as well, ” she says.

Nyoomi feels that a no-deal Brexit means a lot of uncertainty not only for Malaysians, but for citizens as well as Britain was a member of the political and economic union for 47 years.

“Generally, a unified Europe has fared better since the end of World War II. Now with the breakaway of the United Kingdom, I hope this will not affect the overall relationship.

“On a personal note, it will be interesting to see how the United Kingdom hatches out trade deals with other countries, especially given that its bargaining power will be subdued after Brexit, ” she adds.

Undergraduate student Alia Deanna Faisal is also taking precautions for a possible increase in the cost of daily items.

“I am still unsure about how strong the impact will be as the Brexit process is taking place gradually but slowly, but I am certain that I will have to be more aware and familiarise myself with any price changes in my usual grocery routine and lifestyle, ” the civil engineering student at University College London tells Sunday Star.

Alia Deanna says that she is currently saving up her allowance to make sure that she will be able to adjust to possible price changes, particularly since many grocery supplies in Britain are currently brought in from the EU.

Like Adrian, Alia Deanna predicts better access to employability for Malaysians as Brexit will limit free movement of labour from the EU.

“Malaysians will be able to apply for jobs in a much fairer pool as there is no longer an incentive to hire EU graduates.

“Along with the new policy that fresh graduates are able to stay in the UK to work for up to two years upon graduating, this has become a great opportunity for Malaysians to gain experience and expertise from the UK before returning back to Malaysia to serve the country, ” she says.

Zainuddin Yahaya, who runs the Tukdin Malaysian restaurant in London, is not too worried about the potential impact that Brexit will have on his business as he relies mainly on locally sourced or Malaysian ingredients.

“For businesses that import items from the EU, their cost would go up and they may have to start charging more. However, for us the effect is minimal. People will still come to the restaurant from Europe, InsyaAllah (God willing), ” he tells Sunday Star in a telephone interview.

“Most Malaysians companies here (in Britain) source their items locally. For our restaurant, items are either sourced locally, are from Malaysia or are direct imports from Thailand. Not so much from Europe, ” says Zainuddin, who has been running the restaurant for the past decade.

While others in the food and beverage industry may feel a setback due to limited labour coming in from Europe, Zainuddin says that most of his staff are not affected as they are mostly Malaysian students working part-time or locals already residing in Britain.

“There is not much to worry about for Malaysian businesses that deal directly with the United Kindgom. However, Malaysian tourists to Europe (from Britain) may have flight problems and may need to apply for visas to enter Europe.

“That could be a hurdle, ” he adds.

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