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Brexit, the British (English?) nationalism and the immigrants from the V4

I was personally surprised that in the majority of the interviews I made with Polish migrants about Brexit, there appear mentions about nationalistic behaviors of the British people. Even if the interviewees have not experienced them themselves, they were told about them by friends or know it third hand. Referendum campaign revealed much of these layers of nationalism in the British society in which attitude towards immigration and immigrants played a key role. We saw banners saying “Taking our country back” or “Britain for the British”. These sentiments were reinforced by statements of pro-Brexit politicians, like Nigel Farage, who twitted on 26 May 2016 “Mass immigration is still hopelessly out of control and set to get worse if we remain in the EU”. The atmosphere around the campaign caused or contributed to some dreadful events, like the fatal attack by a group of teenagers on a Polish migrant in Harlow, on August 2016, just two months after the referendum. This event provoked a lot of discussion in the Polish mediasphere both in the UK and in Poland, although it was not clear whether the murder had purely xenophobic substrate.

For some Poles this wave of nationalism and the feeling of being unwanted was one of the elements to take into consideration in their life strategies. According to my interviewees for some this could also be another factor in making decision to leave the UK. Ita Głowacka analyzed the internet forum mojawyspa.co.uk (Głowacka 2018: 84-100) and showed emotional reactions from 223 individual posts. 143 of them related to some manifestations of discrimination experienced by them in the UK. Some also were calls to revenge and self-defense. One of the key conclusions of the article was that the Poles in the UK felt increasingly alienated and endangered after the referendum in 2016. On the other hand the negative feelings towards the British also rose within themselves.  

It is worth to quote, what an interviewee from Edinburgh said, that here nothing like this happened and I only heard rumors about what was going on in England. The Scots like Polish people. Similar opinion was shared by an interviewee from London, but he said that these acts of discrimination happened in the province, not in London. London is very multicultural. Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz writes on LSE blog (https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2019/08/06/long-read-its-the-english-stupid/) that Brexit is an expression of English, not British nationalism and that it mainly concerned provinces. This of course goes along the outcomes of the referendum, where the majority of voters voting to leave were from small towns and villages of England, while Scotland and London recorded highest percentages of ‘remain’ supporters.

English nationalism, according to professor Mike Savage rose from two factors: economical and the one referring to identity. According to a survey held in 2008 a vast majority of British people do not have racist or nationalistic attitudes, with only 1.5% declaring that having a non-British neighbor would be very bad to them and over 25% would feel happy to have such neighbors. However, most of the society have an ambivalent or undecided approach and thus can be manipulated by the slogans and xenophobic discourse. During the Brexit referendum parts of political elites pushed this uncertain part of the society towards more nationalistic arguments and interpretations which was noticed by most of the Polish immigrants.

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The Happy End for (Some) Romani Migrant Children

It is generally acknowledged that in the last thirty years, migration policy and multiculturalism in the public policies have been on the list of the most discussed and polarising topics in the British public sphere. Negatively constructed identity of Slovak/East European Romani migrants as “the country´s social welfare system abusers“ and “the non-integrateable community members“ had its lion share in a growing anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalist sentiment in the mainstream population and, ultimately, the United Kingdom´s leaving the EU.

In late 2019, a short-term field research on social adaptation of the emigrated Roma in the UK was conducted by Klara Kohoutová, Veronika Pastrnáková and Ondrej Ficeri of the Social Science Institute, Slovak Academy of Science, in the counties of South York and Derby. They went specifically to the towns with ethnically heterogeneous neighbourhoods and high concentration of the immigrated Romani, like Sheffield – Page Hall, Rotherham – East Wood, Derby – Normanton. The results were presented and discussed at a webinar and are in line with all previous findings in the aggregate. In this post, however, I would like to focus on a positive example, which contradicts the statistics and prevailing media narrative.

It is a sad fact that in Slovak education system thousands of Romani children fail a grade every year. What´s more, this usually happens more than once during their school attendance so eventually, there are youngsters leaving school after 6th or 7th grade, having already become virtually unemployable and facing very weak future prospects in general. 

In the UK, instead of forcing kids to repeat a year – which is always humiliating and deprives them not only of time, but also of classmates, they let even the weakest pupils move forward while providing extra support. So, the most important lesson (some) Romani children (can) learn in British schools (if they are lucky enough to have parents who send them there while working in the UK) is belief in their own abilities. For the first time they (may) hear from a respected authority they can “become anything they want to if they try hard enough” – and they may really do as the authority means it and even takes action to help them make it happen.

Milan Popík from Pavlovce nad Uhom, East Slovakia, is 21 years old. He works at Doncaster airport as a customs officer and wants to become a detective, so he also studies criminology at the University of Sheffield. His parents migrated to the UK when he was 4 years old. Both of them worked hard and managed to set a good example to their son. This is what Milan says about his British teachers, whom he regards as a sort of “deus ex machina” having caused his success:

“The pupil´s future depends on the teacher, on the way they treat them. If the teacher shows support and love to the kid, if they show him or her that they do have a chance to achieve something in life, the kid can do great things. In England, teachers constantly motivate kids, force them to move forward, never just leave them alone. Contrarily, here in Slovakia teachers are sometimes relieved if (Romani) kids do not turn up because they do not listen and disrupt the classes. In England, it is different – the teachers really want each kid to come to schools every day to be constantly improving their reading and writing skills, so that later they have a chance to change their life.“

Na Slovensku sme považovaní za hlúpych cigáňov. V Anglicku vraj rasizmus  nie je | Čumil

Of course, in regard to many Slovak teachers, his generalisations are neither fair nor true – but they probably are in regard to the prevailing approach of the Slovak officials and society to the Romani pupils (note: I am stating the fact regardless the reasons).

Milan is a sort of celebrity and a positive role model in his native village. He is aware how important it is for the local children to see his success – although the sad point is all of them consider such success impossible in Slovakia, which results in boosted chances of their future emigration. Sure, the issues of generational poverty, racism and historically-embedded prejudice are far too complex to be dealt with in this post, and they also occur in the UK (just remember the recent amount of hate received by the unfortunate dark-skinned penalty kicker in the lost final EC match).

Nevertheless, despite all Brexit implications and generally negative reputation of the Romani immigrants in the UK, there are still some of them using the opportunity to prove themselves against all odds.

Sources: https://www.sav.sk/index.php?doc=services-news&source_no=20&news_no=8846, https://dennikn.sk/2453597/pracuje-ako-colnik-na-anglickom-letisku-chce-byt-detektivom-neviem-ci-by-som-na-slovensku-vobec-dokoncil-skolu-video/?ref=tema

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Slovak (and Czech) Virtual Communities in the UK

We found an interesting study on the topic of migration in the UK with the results of research carried out at the Slovak Academy of Sciences. They focused on Slovak virtual communities and their functioning in the UK.

The content analysis shows that the Facebook page “Czechs and Slovaks in the UK” is mainly used to share emotional content (“most liked” are romantic photos of English landscapes), and only to a smaller extent to build a community or share practical information (accommodation, work , information on various events). In addition, the site targets a wide audience across the UK and is dominated by shared, not original, content. It is therefore questionable what its community-building potential is.

Questionnaire data show that while Skype and Facebook are mainly used to maintain already strong social ties in Slovakia, personal contact and mobile phones are mainly used to build and maintain social capital in Britain. Participants also reported a relatively strong degree of connecting social capital, which is based primarily (but not exclusively) on contacts with other Slovak migrants.

However, the new media do not facilitate the building of this social capital before migration itself, but personal contact dominates only after coming to Britain. More than 90% of the participants stated that they did not know any Slovak migrant organizations in Britain, and only about a third of them had participated in events organized by the Slovak community in the past.

While some participants assume that, thanks to the new media, Slovak migrants are more networked than in the past, others think that there are different categories of migrants with different expectations of living in Britain, different social capital building needs and thus different levels of involvement in community life. and varying degrees of interest in web content, dedicated specifically to Slovaks in Britain. Students have been repeatedly identified as a specific category that does not search for its social networks on the basis of shared ethnicity.

The researchers found that research participants in the United Kingdom had little information about community activities carried out by Slovak migrant organizations, and they learned about them predominantly through new media.

Source:

Virtuálne    komunity? Niekoľko    príkladov    z off/online    aktivít    Slovákov a Sloveniek v Írsku a vo Veľkej Británii.  Barbara Lášticová, Magda Petrjánošová.  Ústav výskumu sociálnej komunikácie SA Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268816515_Virtualne_komunity_Niekolko_prikladov_z_offonline_aktivit_Slovakov_a_Sloveniek_v_Irsku_a_vo_Velkej_Britanii_Virtual_communities_Some_insights_into_the_activities_of_Slovak_migrants_in_the_Republic_of_ [accessed Jun 28 2021].

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Cultural institutions as scenes of Hungarian community life in Great Britain

In our research, we paid attention to compile data about the Hungarian community life in Great Britain. We were curious about how active the community life is and to how intense the networking is between Hungarians.

The conversations revealed that above all we must separate social life organized under the umbrella of official cultural institutions and the informal, bottom-up initiatives. In this post, we give a brief summary of the former one.

Official institutions

Hungarian official institutions are concentrated in London, where sizeable Hungarian community lives. In the other parts of Great Britain mostly informal institutions and organizations operate mainly on social media platforms.

One of these Hungarian institutions is the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London which organizes and supports a wide spectrum of programmes to promote Hungarian art and artists in the UK, and to disseminate Hungarian culture. Another important formal institution is the National Federation of Hungarians in England. It provides training in the Hungarian language and the history and geography of Hungary. It also offers courses in Hungarian art, culture and heritage of Hungary, and celebrates its traditions and customs.

Saint Stephan House in London, that hosts the Hungarian catholic community, also must be mentioned. Apart from that diverse cultural programs, traditional religious and national holidays are also organized here (Easter Ball, Harvest Festival, Christmas Fair, art exhibitions, historical commemorations, etc.). Besides Roman Catholic community the Calvinist Church is also active in London. Beyond the religious celebrations they organize different community programmes too.

From the point of view of the Hungarian community life we must mention the supplementary Hungarian schools as well, which we briefly introduced in our previous post. It is important because “during the lessons, parents are waiting in the corridors; they chat and get acquainted. However, these relationships break off beyond the walls of school.”

Unofficial initiatives

Out of these we can highlight the followings: Hungarians in England, Information page for Hungarians living in London or A helpful community of Hungarians. On these websites a plenty of useful information is collected regarding bureaucracy and administration, employment or education opportunities. In addition, Hungarian scouts and folk dance groups also exist. They are typical examples of bottom-up initiatives launched by active members of the community. According to our interviewees mainly these groups are more frequently visited by those Hungarians who have recently moved to England “and who haven’t integrated into the native society. They still insist on Hungarian culture and language.”

In addition to the above-mentioned informal initiatives, lots of facebook groups exist. Most of them are used for keeping everyday contact between the Hungarians living in different cities. In the next post, we will give a brief review of the latter one, focusing on the community cohesion of Hungarians living in England.

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A short note about the Hungarian supplementary/weekend schools in the UK

In contrast to what we had planned, due to the pandemic this research has been conducted exclusively online so far, when both our interview partners and us stayed at home in lockdown. Often this resulted in unexpected situations when a bunch of kids run into the room during the interview and asked for all sorts of things from mum/dad/aunt/uncle etc.: a piece of biscuit, the exact date of the collapse of the Roman Empire or which colour to pick for their princess doll’s dress. In such cases the interview diverted towards child raising and decisions about education. Depending on the age of their children, parents faced different challenges, but what seemed common in the interviews is that parents wanted their kids to keep using the Hungarian language and get familiar with the Hungarian culture even after kids enter primary education in the UK. Therefore many talked about their experiences with Hungarian supplementary schools or weekend schools as they refer to those (we will use this term). In the followings we provide a brief overview of supplementary schools operated by the Hungarians and some reflections from teachers who work in these schools.

The number of available researches on supplementary schools in the Hungarian diaspora is very limited and rather case studies of certain institutions or communities. Therefore we were happy to discover an excellent recent study written by Attila Papp Z., Eszter Kovács and András Kováts (in Hungarian) about the Hungarian weekend schools in the United Kingdom.

The study is based on their field work interviews and observations executed in eleven schools in the UK in 2018-2019. These institutions can be analysed in the frame of diaspora building and also as part of education and ethnic socialisation. They refer to the definition by Archer and Francis (2016) and describe weekend schools as supplementary education, which is run by an ethnic community and its aim is to teach one subject and/or the mother tongue, and cultural habits and rituals. In the UK the number of such supplementary schools is estimated between 3000 and 5000, among which 19 is listed as Hungarian. Most of this we can find in London and its vicinity, whereas others are located in other major cities (Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh). However the first Hungarian weekend school was established in 1948, the first stable one was established in 1978 in London (Londoni Magyar Iskola/Hungarian School in London). Importantly, overwhelming majority of the schools exist today were established between 2010 and 2016, which clearly resonates with the post 2008 migration trends of Hungarians arriving to the UK . According to Papp Z., Kovács and Kováts, three major arguments can be traced among parents who enrol their kids into such schools. One is personal, namely that parents want their kids to use Hungarian language outside of the family, and weekend schools are ideal and safe social spaces to do so. As second they mention rationality, which derives from the often mention shocking costs of childcare. Some of the weekend schools provide services which can be a more affordable alternative of the very expensive kindergarten/nursery/babysitter. Third, some parents were unsatisfied with other schools thus they decided to open a new one. Importantly, in the UK supplementary schools can apply for funds from authorities and local governments as well, which many did so. However in the cases we heard about the survival of the schools was dependent on the parents mainly. 

This is how our interviewee Rebeka, who is in her 40s and lives in London since 2010, remembers to her experiences as a teacher and member of the board of trustees in one of the Hungarian weekend schools. According to her experiences pupils are arriving from three main circles to Hungarian schools: 1) from Hungarian families, where both parents are from Hungary; 2) from families where both parents or one of them is from a transborder Hungarian minority community (from Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia); 3. from mixed couples, where one member of the family is of Hungarian descent. She speaks about committed parents with great respect, however she also points to the fragility of such schools. When parents find employments some other part of London, or decide to move to the countryside where housing is a bit more affordable than in London, the schools always need to figure out ways how to keep balance in budget. Interestingly, she observed that among teenagers, who enrolled into traditional British schools where boys and girls study separately, the coeducated (mixed-sex) Hungarian weekend school might remain popular.

In another interview Péter, who was a teacher at the Hungarian School in London from 2015 to 2017, confirmed that the motivation of Hungarian parents is to preserve Hungarian language, culture and customs. According to Péter, most of the pupils in the Hungarian School in London came from families which migrated recently. They are more connected to Hungary, so they consider it important for their child to learn how to read and write in Hungarian, to get acquainted with Hungarian history, literature, etc.

He also noted that the teaching methods, the overall atmosphere in these weekend schools are looser, more easy-going than in an average school in Hungary. This was unacceptable to him, thus he resigned. 

“Here’s what the kid wants…she/he goes out because she’s/he’s hungry or she/he wants to drink, she/he wants to play football, and you can’t tell her/him anything. I do not want this.”

The Hungarian School in London is an important place for Hungarian community life in England, which we will talk about in more details in our next post.

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Migrants and the internal divisions of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is not homogeneous, as was perfectly illustrated by the results of the 2016 Brexit referendum. While at the national level 51.9% of eligible voters voted to leave the European Union, in Scotland 62% of citizens voted to stay in its structures. In no administrative region in Scotland the majority was in favor of Brexit. Similarly, though not as spectacularly (55.8%), the supporters of staying in the EU won in Northern Ireland. The most noticable difference was on the Anglo-Scottish border, where in the Carlisle district 60.1% of votes was to leave, and right next to it, in the Scottish Borders, 58.5% of the population voted to remain in the EU. London voted differently than most of England (in the City of London over 75% of voters were in favor of staying in the EU), In the province it was completely different. The North of England also voted differently than the South.
Interestingly, the results of the Brexit referendum show that identity factors played an important role, which in a country like the United Kingdom where at least four nations live, is especially noticable. If only Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales had voted, the UK would remain in the Union. The most populous England decided to leave for the rest of the country. The need to leave the Union was biggest among the English, whose identity is primarily English, and less British, while those who declare themselves primarily British, and less English, were more likely to chose to remain in the Union.
The internal divisions in the country were overlapped by the attitude towards migrants, which became one of the key topics of the referendum campaign. The slogan “take back control” was very much concerned with the control of immigration. Organizations such as UKIP argued that the mass and uncontrolled influx of immigrants contributed to an increase in unemployment and lower salaries, which was especially popular with small entrepreneurs who, paradoxically, most often used the work of migrants themselves.
The issue of migration is closely related then to internal divisions in Great Britain. While in England the European Union has often been portrayed as “the others”, in Scotland it is dominant to portray the Scots as one of the nations of a united Europe opposed to the English. In Northern Ireland, on the other hand, the issue of Brexit is very closely linked to the conflict between loyalists and those who want unification with the Republic of Ireland. This is clearly visible when analyzing the results of the referendum. The overlapping of the religious division between Protestants and Catholics results in the fact that often Catholic Poles are automatically identified as supporters of the Republicans. Migrants sometimes do not understand the specificity of the sectarian division in the region and the fact that, for example, some bus stops are “assigned” to particular groups. Sometimes it becomes a cause of aggression.
On May 13, 2021, an incident occurred in Kenmure Street in Glasgow where the Home Office tried to evict two illegal immigrants from India. Passers-by reacted with a protest, singing and shouting “Leave them, they are our neighbors!”. The Scottish police did not support the Home Office’s activities, and Nicola Sturgeon in a Twitter post condemned the ways in which the British Home Office operated. The incident sparked a media storm that, with the defense of migrants and asylum seekers as a starting point, moved to defending Scotland’s independence in politics towards migration issues and not only.

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Another Brexit Externality: Au pairs Wanted, Still not Allowed

As was mentioned in my previous blog, majority of the Slovak interviewees first came to Britain as au pairs. Until recently, it was the easiest and most affordable way for a young foreigner with a lack of qualifications or skills to find a job and explore the UK by living with the host family and taking care of their children. Unfortunately, the new visa rules do not take the European au pair system into account so many British parents have started considering which of them gives up work. “Brexit killed our business,” Cynthia Cary of the Rainbow Au Pairs agency said.

Migration was one of the key topics of brexit campaign. Au pairs are one of its victims. Since Britain´s definitive break with the EU, young Europeans wishing to get to know the country´s culture and improve their English need a work visa. To obtain it, au pairs must now earn a minimum of £20,000 (€23,341), which is significantly higher than the £5,000 per year typically given in the past. This low pay was acceptable with regard to free accommodation and meals provided by the host family in addition to salary. For the comparison, the cost of a British nanny is at around £2,000 per month, which is prohibitively expensive for most British families.

Cary explained since January her agency had seen applications fall by 90% – the same proportion of au pairs that would normally apply from the EU. Under the current regulations, the only foreign nationals who can work as au pairs are either Europeans who arrived in the UK before Brexit or nationals from nine countries including Canada, Australia and Japan under a youth mobility scheme. The pool of candidates from these remaining countries does not come close to filling the usual demand for 45,000 au pairs in the UK every year, the British Au Pair Agencies Association has said.

According to Zuzana Sekeráková Búriková of the Sociological Institute, Slovak Academy of Science, the author of the well-known book Au Pair, it is very hard to tell what happens next. “The UK migration officials do not reckon the country depends on foreign caregivers,“ says Sekeráková Búriková. “There will certainly be a crisis in this area. The point system applied in visa issuing process after brexit prefers workers with higher qualifications. Britain will certainly need to find ways of opening itself to the child or senior caregivers. “

However, Sekeráková Búriková reminds there is no guarantee the UK will open up to the Europeans, including Slovaks. It is even less likely the au pairs´ income would grow enough to meet the minimum level for a work visa. The UK agencies have even asked their government to extend the mobility scheme so the EU countries are included – with no response yet.

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“I have not seen my grandson in a year”- Czechs demand loosening of travel restrictions

Today, the group of Czech citizens living in the UK sent a petition demanding loosening of travel restriction to the Czech Ministry of Health. The petition that went public a week ago was signed by more than sixteen hundred Czech citizens.
Currently, the Ministry of Health selects EU countries into three categories (red/orange/green). Red countries are those with the highest danger of infection with COVID 19. Since Brexit Great Britain is not part of the system and falls automatically within the red category with accordingly strict regulation of travelling (at least five days of quarantine in the Czech Republic additional to two weeks back in the UK) Authors of “We demand reasonable regulation of travelling from Great Britain to Czechia” which is a title of the petition. want the Czech minister of health to change the status of the UK from red to orange. To support their cause their present data showing that the situation in the UK is similar to Denmark or the Republic of Ireland. As a reason to consider the UK as an EU country, they quote fifty thousand Czech nationals living in the UK for a long term.
The petition available online gained 1658 signatures in eight days. The highest number of petitioners (according to their self-declaration) are coming from Londen (250), Prague (78) and Manchester (51). Petitioners could also add a comment to the publicly visible forum- the majority of them missed their families on both sides or expressed anger that they are treated as “second class citizens” and demanded fair conditions of travelling.
The Global pandemic showed us how fragile the transnational lifestyle is. Individuals could develop strong social bonds in several national states. Brexit strengthens the effect of the pandemic on the life of Czechs living in the UK. When in 2020 we interviewed Czechs living in the UK, they did not feel worried and did not believe that travelling could get more difficult. Global pandemic and different treatment of EU countries by the Czech Ministry of Health is one thing that we could not imagine yet it influences the lives of individuals.

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How does a young Slovak family evaluate life in Britain?

In the V4 Brexit project, we at Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica follow the life strategies of Slovaks in Britain. In this article, we focus on how a young Slovak family evaluates the everyday life in Britain. They come from a small town in the East of Slovakia, where there were not many job opportunities. Therefore, the husband left for Britain first, and later his family came to see him in England (Luton). That was, a wife and a daughter in this time.

Upon arrival, they experienced a minor culture shock. They were surprised by two faucets in the sink – one with hot water and the other with ice water. It was the first thing they changed when they moved in. They also could not get used to having rules for everything. For instance, you cannot take children on holiday or to Slovakia during school year unless it is something very serious. After five days, you get a fine of £ 60 per child.

However, they were pleasantly surprised by help from neighbours. When their car broke down and the husband had no way to get to work, a neighbour lent them his old car. They did not expect it because they did not know anyone.

In their opinion, the United Kingdom is a very tolerant country, thanks to which they did not have to give up anything, nor do they find our Slovak customs bizarre. Children do not feel unequal. They have English at the level of classmates, sometimes even better. If they did not have the suffix -ová after the surname, probably no one would find out that they do not come from England.

Maybe it is just that almost all European children are a little more polite. As our Slovak parents have guided us, we lead our children, e.g., to always greet each other. Young Englishmen miss it a bit. However, the English are very nice people. Even if they think badly of you, they will not say it and will behave properly. They have no negative experience with them. Rather, they try to help and advise them.

English seem to love their country as it is. They would not exchange the architecture of traditional houses for any modern bungalow. It has its charm, literally every house preserves a piece of history. People enjoy it more and complain and criticize less. They try to keep up with the trends, even the older ones.

According to the respondents, Slovakia is a beautiful country, they like to spend summer here. They definitely want to return to Slovakia one day, but they are not really thinking about it now. Brexit and its effects are not directly felt, and they do not feel any uncertainty.

Living abroad taught them independence. Thanks to this, the children learned fluent English. And they evaluate their lives in England as being satisfied with the quality of life. Their story and life strategy show that you can live elsewhere than in Slovakia. It is up to us which direction we choose.

Source: https://www.aktuality.sk/clanok/663434/slovaci-v-anglicku-bohati-ludia-sa-nepovysuju-a-deti-sa-neboja-pisomiek/

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What does Brexit mean for (and not only) Hungarians? Let’s talk about practicalities!

The previous post about Hungary described that in the last couple of years the United Kingdom has become one of the most attractive destinations in Western Europe for Hungarians migrants. The number of Hungarians permanently residing in the UK was around 100,000 in 2020 (however, presumably there is a significant group of Hungarian citizens, who do not appear in the statistics: they work seasonally and circulate between Hungary and the UK).

Brexit happened, that is a fact. But how does it will affect the everyday life and employment opportunities of Hungarians living in the UK? If we take into account the opinions of the nearly 30 interviewees we have asked in 2020, then we could say: in general, by no means. In most cases, we heard responses such as: “It doesn’t affect my future life here at all” or “It will only be difficult for those who come to England after Brexit. I’m safe”. Under to the rules in force today, Hungarians (and other EU citizens) who had been living in the UK before the Brexit became official (31 January 2020) or during the subsequent transitional period (between January and the end of December 2020) can easily arrange the necessary paperwork which allows them to stay in the UK, without any restrictions. First, they must apply for settled status or pre-settled status by 30 June 2021 (former applies for those who has been living for more than 5 years in the UK and the latter for those who has been living less than five years in the country). According to our respondents, this process is not particularly complicated; it can be done simply and quickly, on line or by using an application. In case any problem arose, they could rely on the efficient help of officers, administrators.

What if I wish to work in the UK after the Brexit?

It seems that staying and working in the UK should not be a problem for our compatriots (or for other EU citizens) who has arrived before the Brexit, including unskilled workers. However, the new regulations in force from 2021 brought about serious limitations, which concern potential migrants, so let’s take a look at the main changes.

As Paul Fox, the UK Ambassador to Hungary mentioned, after the Brexit a new point-based system will be applied to assess employment applications for EU citizens, including Hungarians. He pointed out, that “after Brexit, we had to restrict free employment in some way. And this applies not only to Hungarians, but to all EU citizens equally. It is a system that ensures equal treatment. It is different from the previous system, when anyone was free to take a job.”[1] In the new point-based system the most important thing is to have an actual job offer (20 points), but equally crucial the degree of education of the applicant (20 points). In addition, there is a strong emphasis on whether someone speaks English (10 points). The other points can be obtained with the salary levels corresponding to the promised position or with more marketable diplomas (e.g. PhD). The potential employee has to score seventy points to get a work permit. “With the point-based system we want to find the best workforce and attract them to our country, which is why qualification is very important in valuation”, told Fox.

The new system allows potential migrants to apply for various visas. The “top” visa category is the Global Talent visa, which allows highly skilled workers to enter the UK without a job offer, suggesting that the legislature is confident that they will find a job anyway. A Skilled Worker visa requires at least B1 level language exam and a job offer corresponding to the qualification. In addition there is also the category of skilled labor: the Healthcare visa, which is treated separately due to labor shortages in the UK in health and social sectors. In sum, the above mentioned types of visa are available to skilled workers, who have job offer, and speak English.[2]

What if I wish to study in the UK after the Brexit?

First of all, tuition fees for Hungarian (and other non-UK) citizens will increase drastically from the 2021/22 school year. In addition, it will no longer be possible to apply for a student loan. Who decides to study in the UK must apply for a student visa, which means an additional 812 £ (about 870 €) extra cost. Furthermore, no agreement has been reached on the mutual acceptance of higher education diplomas. In practice it means that diplomas of EU citizens who have already worked or studied in England before 1 January 2021 will continue to be automatically accepted. However, those arriving after 1st January 2021 are required to have diplomas recognized by the appointed UK authority, which is a significant change. In addition, the United Kingdom will not participate in the Erasmus program in the future (they found it too expensive). As a result, the number of foreign (and thus Hungarian) students in the country may decrease. [3]

In the further phase of the research our task is to find out what changes (if any) Brexit brought to Hungarians living in the UK.


[1] Author’s translation. Source: https://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/20210125/tudtuk-hogy-sok-minden-mas-lesz-a-brexit-utan-es-ezt-a-magyarok-is-megerzik-majd-466424

[2] https://telex.hu/kulfold/2021/01/14/brexit-mivel-jar-angliai-magyarok-cegek-diakok-turistak

[3] https://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/20210125/tudtuk-hogy-sok-minden-mas-lesz-a-brexit-utan-es-ezt-a-magyarok-is-megerzik-majd-466424