British Prime Minister Theresa May might be formally committed to stopping the free movement of EU citizens to Britain ahead of the June 8 elections, a fact that may affect thousands of Greeks living or studying in England.
According to a Daily Mail report citing anonymous sources from the Conservative Party, in her elections manifesto, the British prime minister will also commit to withdrawing from the EU’s single market and the European Court of Justice.
The report says that May aims at stopping the supporters of the country’s stay in the European Union and defeat her political rivals both through her party and the House of Lords. Tory officials claim that the measures are essential to May implementing the outcome of last year’s Brexit referendum.
How the decision affects Greeks in England
Greek students in British universities might see raises in tuition ranging from 30% to 40%, as their status would change to “overseas students.” So far, Greeks — like all EU citizens — were paying tuition as if they were British citizens.
Until 2015, Greeks were the fifth largest group of foreign students at British higher education institutions. According to official figures, for the academic year 2014-15, 10,130 Greek students were enrolled at British universities. It is estimated that currently there are about 35,000 Greeks studying in England. The increase in tuition might force thousands of them who cannot afford the new fees to leave the country.
For Greeks working in Britain, things can be even worse and much more complicated. Brexit is likely to turn them into “b class workers,” since they will have higher prerequisites (income criteria, educational level, etc.), some kind of visa, which will be granted with strict criteria, and a series of bureaucratic procedures before they are permitted to work in Britain.
At the same time, Greek workers in the United Kingdom may have limited access to welfare benefits and less favorable working conditions than the British.
Currently there are 1.6 foreigners working in Britain. According to a Social Market Foundation estimate, 88% of foreigners currently employed in the UK will not qualify for the new work permits.
As far as Greeks are concerned, there are about 52,000 working in England, according to the latest official figures until the end of 2014. However, the biggest outflow of Greeks to Britain was in 2015, when the Grexit threat was looming. In 2015, more than 10,500 Greeks received the National Insurance Number, without which they could not work in England.