Parliament forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to write to the EU to request a further delay to Brexit yesterday (19 October) – something he has said he doesn’t want to do. As the future remains unclear, there is still much uncertainty as to what a post-EU UK will look like.
The impact of Brexit will be unavoidable in daily life across Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Croydon. Here, Eastlondonlines lists what the four councils are doing to prepare for the potential fallout of Brexit.
Tower Hamlets council released a report in February, detailing the impact that Brexit will have on the area, based on various scenarios. It stated that any economic impact that is likely to occur will be “unevenly distributed” due to wealth disparity that exists within the borough, the highest in London. Businesses, particularly smaller local ones which may have not been able to prepare for Brexit to an adequate level, may experience an impact on their supply output.
However, the detail reports a larger blow will be made to public services with programmes and non-profit organisations (with UK charities likely to be losing a total of £258 million in funding) which rely on EU grants facing “an uncertain future” such as the European Regional Development Fund although the government states that programmes will continue to receive funding for the rest of their existence so long as they “successfully bid into EU-funded programmes before the end of 2020.”
The biggest concern is in regards to the insecure status of the EU residents that heavily populate the area, with over 41, 000 (one in seven residents) EU citizens living within the borough, with areas such as adult social care and higher education being particularly dependant on the work of EU citizens. They can apply for residency through the EU Settlement Scheme, with advice available on how to do this on the Tower Hamlet Council website.
What the council itself will be doing to support the area post-Brexit was also announced in the report, with recommendations to work with partners in order to support local businesses, with access available to “business rate relief” to smaller business, the encouragement of employers to invest locally to “better prepare Tower Hamlets residents to access job opportunities particularly in low skilled work, should labour decrease in certain sectors”. Tower Hamlets Partnership will be lobbying the government to continue to fund schemes such as Erasmus and will work with the council in order to “ positively encourage community cohesion in the borough, by creating a sense of place-based pride among residents”.
Hackney, which had the third highest Remain area vote in the 2016 referendum, also conducted a similar research project in 2017 and found they also have a large EU population (41, 500, making up 15% of the overall population of the borough) with the local economy being quite supported by the work of skilled EU migrants who would be immensely affected by a hard or no-deal Brexit which could also slow future population growth within Hackney.
The report argued that this could “ potentially open up more opportunities for local residents” but local workers may not have “the right skills levels to plug this significant skills gap without creating skills and employment programmes” which would require more funding for the council.
Also, as Johnson vowed in his inaugural Queen’s speech to end free movement within the EU, the EU-based student population is likely to decrease which will have a knock on effect on business and trade that relies on EU students such as hospitality, low-skilled roles etc, an industry which has grown in Hackney this decade.
A positive note that the council has made is that Brexit could lead to more affordable house prices/rent due to reduce demand for accommodation, but this is hard to predict and one big change in the housing market due to issues brought by Brexit could have big consequences and leave residents worse off.
It has been widely proven and acknowledged that hate crime rates increased in the UK post-Brexit, and this was true Hackney as well with a 19% rise (in line with the national average increase). Hackney Council launched a #hackneylovesyou campaign in 2017 in order to show how valued EU citizens were within the borough and will be hosting an advice day specifically for EU-born residents at Mare Hall on the 16th October with Mayor Phillip Glanville set to attend.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, documents from Hackney Council revealed last month contingency plans including restricting access to emergency fuel to only permitted vehicles with doctors, waste disposal vehicles, care workers and emergency service vehicles prioritised, and potential plans to help fund those most affected with regards to food if the prices increase by a large amount.
According to ‘Brexit No Deal Preparedness’ report released by Croydon council last month, funding given to the council will increase to £105,000 for the 2020/21 financial year which will be put towards dealing with the aftermath of Brexit.
Programmes such as “StartUps in London Libraries” (London libraries becoming more place to help and assist those with business ideas) and “Work Route Families” (designed to help unemployed people with families find employment) which exist in the borough are heavily funded by European Regional Development Fund and although the government has said it will give replacement funding, it is not clear how much and when this will take place.
The report features similar steps and measures being taken by Hackney and Tower Hamlets council and has been holding many information sessions, including “Settled Status” workshops in different languages such as Polish.
ELL had previously reported that Lewisham had experienced the biggest dip in house prices out of all four boroughs, falling 1.4% in 2019 with the uncertainty that Brexit will bring leaving it unclear if it shall decrease even more.
Goldsmiths, University of London is based in New Cross and has a large EU student population, standing at 10%, as well as academic staff who originated from EU countries. Advice is available on Goldsmiths official website, but it is once again unclear the level of impact this will have on the university.
All councils have stated that have been working with local NHS hospitals with regards to making a contingency plan for medication shortages in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
ELL approached each council for comment on their Brexit contingency plans, but at the time of posting no comment has been received.