Like many others, I’m leaving the UK because of Brexit, and I’m taking my skills with me.
It is barely a day into the new parliament and already we have seen MPs tenuously extrapolate the “will of the people” from the election results. Labour MP Andy Slaughter spoke in the Commons declaring his astounding victory in Hammersmith to be a vote against hard Brexit. This is despite the fact that, again and again, the Labour Party has rejected the notion of Britain remaining in the single market, merely pushing the impossible lie that we could “retain the benefits” of it. Arch-Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin was, annoyingly, probably the most correct when he said that only the Lib Dems offered single market access in the election and their vote share went down.
I have a degree in Computing and over ten years in the software development industry, seven of them in central London — arguably Europe’s (current) tech hub. There are a number of very important reasons why 9 out of 10 Tech City firms supported staying in the EU last year. The first is that the world is not, despite what some others would like, as it was in the 1970s. This tiresome pining for a simpler age and the assertion that we “managed fine” before the EU entirely disregards the emerging industries underpinning the country’s economic recovery. The Internet, mobile devices and the explosion in the app development market have created an opportunity for somebody with nothing but a laptop to open a store online and sell their goods or services around the world. But, you know, feel free to try selling jam instead.
The second reason is immigration. Year upon year we spit out a woefully low level of computer science graduates and, consequently, we’ve relied on EU migrants not only to fill the skills gap, but to teach those skills to UK citizens in schools and universities. One key argument during the EU referendum was, “why don’t we train our own people to do these jobs?”. The answer is that they’re simply not interested. Instead, we invite migrants to this country, bringing their skills, increasing the product of the tech industry and, of course, paying their taxes.
Oddly enough, I also now avidly support Britain leaving the European Union. This country is so obsessed with its delusion of imperialism; its pompous, arrogant and unjustified belief that there’s no country greater, that I honestly think the only way for it to realise just how irrelevant they are is the economic shock of hard Brexit. Face it, remainers warned of the consequences till their faces were as blue as their tshirts, yet people still voted not with their heads, but with that famous British resentment. The power of persuasive debate is lost upon them, and the only way to counter the faux-patriotic rhetoric and the big bus slogans is to show them the reality.
There are plenty of fellow arch-remainers who strongly disagree with me. I love them to bits, of course, but they suffer from a deluded sense of desperation. They’re quick to point out that “the 52%” is actually 37% of the entire nation, yet continue to identify as “the 48%” (which, by their own logic is actually 34%). They also refuse to accept that the country has not rejected Brexit, yet anyway. That 48% figure contains natural Brexiteers who were convinced by the pragmatic message on the economy. It also contains, as polls reinforce, “re-leavers”. These are remain voters who want the vote to be respected. Remain isn’t losing marginally anymore, it’s losing considerably.
So I’m packing my bags. I’ve accepted a job in Berlin, one of the greatest cities in the world and one vying to pick up the lion’s share of London’s tech offering once Britain “takes back control”. “Well, fuck off then”, I hear the Brex Pests say. (Trust me, they’ll say it in the comments and the tweets, but they won’t have read beyond the title). Of course, it’s fine for them to say that — after all I am fucking off. Feel free to say it to others too — software developers, doctors, astrophysicists, electronic engineers. Say it till they all fuck off, because only then is there the slightest shred of possibility that you’ll see how small the UK really is.
Auf wiedersehen Britain. I’ll watch from afar on my balcony, sipping a glass of Riesling, chuckling to myself every time David Davis comes back from the negotiating table with yet another concession. And as you begin to endure the economic ruin you literally voted for, I have to confess I will probably enjoy it. Taking pleasure in the misfortune of others? If only there was a German word for that…