British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, reached a Brexit deal on 17 October — more than three years after British citizens voted to leave the bloc, and less than two weeks before the date by which the United Kingdom (UK) is set to leave the European Union (EU).
Even though the deal still needs to be approved by the British parliament and the leaders of the EU’s 27 member states, a no-deal Brexit scenario seems to be less likely today. However, a “soft Brexit” could still disrupt the work life of expats abroad.
A recent InterNations survey shows the biggest concerns of British employees living abroad, and European career expats in the UK. Some of the international hires and foreign assignees that took part in the survey have already taken action or are planning to, which might result in an early return from a foreign assignment or a potential talent loss.
European Career Expats in the UK Take Preventive Steps
According to the Expat Insider 2019 survey, 42% of expats in the UK are unhappy with the country’s political stability, up from 8% in 2016. The UK’s performance in the Working Abroad Index has also worsened, with the country coming in 48th place in 2019 compared to 14th in 2016.
A French expat employee who left the UK to move to Czechia points out that, after Brexit, the UK might not apply European rules concerning the payment of pensions. “This means that I will have lost four years of contributing to the British system,” she adds.
An Italian expat who lives in the UK is also considering to leave the country: “Brexit has brought uncertainty in my life. I am not sure I want to stay in the UK in the future. It makes me feel lost. I’m thinking of moving away from the UK.”
British Expat Employees Consider Prolonging Their Stay Abroad
A British career expat who was sent to the United States of America (USA) in 2016 on a foreign assignment by their Swedish employer says: “The referendum result was a shock and we realized that this might affect arrangements to move back to Sweden after our US assignment. Ideas we had about moving to the UK in the near future have certainly been called into question.”
A British expat employee living in South Korea is also reconsidering previous plans to move back to the UK: “It’s become clear to me that my career prospects are much more obvious outside of the UK and so I’ve decided to continue living abroad for the foreseeable future. With Brexit, the UK will no longer be a major world player for business and other opportunities.”
A British career expat living in Thailand agrees: “Weakening British Pound Sterling (GBP) has reduced income slightly. My wife and I have already decided not to return to the UK when my contract here expires.”
These comments might be an indicator to employers that expat employees need better support at a time when geopolitical events, such as Brexit, affect global talent mobility and threaten positive employee experience.