Brexit. A word that is now firmly embedded in the vocabulary of people in the UK and many nations around the world. Who would have thought that a tiny island of 60 million could cause so much angst across the 500 million strong wider European Union?
Recently, Morgan McKinley surveyed a working population of circa 5,000 to offer their thoughts on the June 2016 referendum. The audience consisted of those working in the UK, across a range of working ages, within the sectors:
When this audience was asked if they felt the outcome of the referendum had been the right decision for the UK, there was an overwhelming 68% who said that it was not the right outcome.
Of those that opposed, 69% work within the banking and financial services sector, 66% within commerce and industry and 68% from the professional services arena. Broken down by age, we found that only 23% of Millennials and an even lower 19% of Gen X agreed with the outcome of the referendum.This is in stark contrast with the Baby Boomers, where a staggering 45% of respondents felt that the decision to leave the EU was the right one for the UK.
If there were to be a second referendum, 88% of respondents said they would not change their original vote. Some shared the view that Brexit is “a great opportunity for the United Kingdom to be free of red tape and EU regulations that are strangling business”, whilst others voiced that it is “a badly thought out decision made for political ideology and not for any rational or positive economic, environmental or social objectives”.
Recently, there has been a lot of concern around the threat of the UK losing passporting rights, with emphasis placed on the continued importance of freedom of movement for EU nationals. With this becoming a fundamental topic of the pending negotiations, when we surveyed if employers had any intention of relocating their business abroad (either in parts or in its entirety), almost half (48%) said no, whilst 31% said yes that was going to be the case or at least, there was a strong possibility that it may happen. A fifth (21%) were not familiar with their company's future strategy and couldn’t confirm either way. Of the 48% who said there was no intention for their employer to relocate, 36% of those are working within Banking and Financial Services, 54% within Commerce and Industry and 55% in Professional Services. 40% of those questioned within Banking and Financial Services voted that their companies were already in discussions, or at least considering, moving parts of their operations to another country.
When asked if they would consider relocating, 38% said categorically, that they would not consider this option, whilst 62% said they would entertain the idea. There was a proportion of individuals under 24 years of age (77%) as well as the age group 25-44 (65%), who would happily move or consider moving to another country to work. Only those within the other age groups, 45-64 (43%), 65-74 (49%) and above 75 years of age (56%), highlighting that many would still prefer to stay within the UK.
Locations of interest differed, with mainland Europe proving to be the most popular - 58% of respondents said they would be open to moving there. Only 18% would consider the US and 9% to Asia Pacific. Some participants have already seen effects of Brexit with one commenting that they “had to find a contract on the mainland, as international projects in the UK have been put on hold until there is certainty over what is going to happen”, and another mentioning “as an EU citizen I decided to leave the U.K. after the referendum results”.
Interestingly, the under 24 years of age category were the most committed to moving to the US (38%), this dropping to 13% of 65-74 year olds and 0% at 75 and over. In contrast, 75% of over 75s chose mainland Europe as a desired location, with this falling to 58% of 25-44 year olds and 41% of <24 years of age. The 14% who chose 'Other', referenced Canada, Africa and Saudi Arabia as desirable locations they would consider.
Of the 38% who said they were not prepared to leave the UK, 80% were because they simply didn’t want to leave their current home. 63% referenced family commitments made it difficult to move whilst 36% were put off by language restrictions and being unfamiliar with international culture. 46% of the Millennial group said language restrictions concerned them the most, whilst the Gen X group found family commitments hindered their ability to be flexible. Of the 7% who selected 'Other' had reasons such as unfavourable tax regimes, financial commitments such as a mortgage, seeking contractual work only, the educational system in the UK and patriotism as reasons not to relocate.
In summary, of those asked if the outcome of the vote was the right decision for the UK, opinions appeared to be consistent across the sectors surveyed (Banking and Financial Services, Commerce and Industry and Professional Services) with a range of just 2% for those that supported the result of the vote, and 3% of those that were against. What is evident however, is that the majority of the professional workforce who completed the survey were in favour of remaining within the EU. Whilst we did not explicitly ask participants which way they voted, of the 68% that stated the result had not been the right decision for the UK, only 12% would change their vote if there was a second referendum.
Only time will now tell how the pending negotiations pan out. There is no doubt, the decision to ‘Vote Leave’ has divided the nation, and still with no clarity on the UK’s future position with regards to trade / passporting rights and overall freedom of movement, this continues to add uncertainty and unrest for many individuals and businesses. The economy and public still remain uncertain with one of our survey participants assuming “After the furore dies down, the economy will stabilise” and another suggesting that “all seems very positive so far, but we would be prepared to take some short-term financial pain to leave, if that's what it takes. No one can predict the future anyway.”
Whilst Theresa May has committed to triggering Article 50 by March 2017, a recent High Court ruling stated that this cannot be invoked without putting it to a vote in the House of Commons.
There is certainly going to be some interesting and testing times still to come.