My father’s family left Wales for Canada shortly after WWII, and my brothers and I were born under the British North America Act. This makes us British citizens, eligible for the British passport. Living in Canada, where career prospects are limited by the size of our cities and domestic businesses in comparison to the neighbouring US economy, there is a definite damper imposed on my international ambitions should Brexit go ahead. The same may not be as true for my children, who are not British citizens.
Having witnessed NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) since its inception in 1994, it is somewhat comical to hear the US President says he plans to build a wall at the Mexican border while also talking NAFTA, considering that Mexico is a NAFTA member nation and Mexican resources (human and other) contribute so substantially to the American economy.
A colleague who lived in Bosnia described the political climate prior to the war as akin to that of Quebec-Canada relations: a minority people seeking to have their cultural identity recognized with the hopes of operating as an independent economy. Myopic as these wishes may be in an economic sense, Britain would do well to look at the historical examples of Bosnia and Quebec in considering what measures can put in place to sustain social programs for the twenty years following Brexit. Job creation programs, self-employment bonuses and subsidies for employers are among the most prudent measures possible. The latter is critical for ensuring that smaller businesses with employees can afford to stay open as higher minimum wage laws become the norm across the developed world.
Though economists forecast Brexit’s impact to have come and gone within two decades, meaning that Great Britain’s economy will return to a similar rank within approximately seventeen years, the immediate impact on the 20-50-year-old British population will be a function of individual flexibility and adaptability; quality of life will come down to having multiple streams of income, and retirement is unlikely to be an option. The riddle then becomes how to make space in the workforce for younger generations and to learn from the failings of our European neighbours – Greek youth have little opportunity to emerge into the business world since no one retires; Italy suffers from too many thirty-somethings living with their parents instead of establishing independent households and becoming participants in the economy.
Governments have a responsibility to prioritize access to income and reinvestment of income into independent business initiatives. Regulating telecommunication costs such as internet access and phone services is a critical element of survival for economies and individuals in the digital age. The economy of the future is truly everyone for themselves. Tax-paying citizens need the opportunity to extend and maintain work skills, participate in online job searches, have access to freelance job prospects and choose from e-commerce options.
Like NAFTA, Britain’s role in the European economic landscape will be negotiated and renegotiated. Europe’s positioning in the international marketplace will shift as developing economies move in on manufacturing, for example. Developed countries can expect an important number of employers and workers operating in the service industry. Britain will regain her footing in Europe and abroad. No matter where we are in the world, providing for ourselves and our families depends more on our positioning in the global village than it does in relation to a particular region. There is scarcely a one trick pony, single 9-5 job culture anywhere in the developed world today, even among traditional professions. Our futures are well and truly in our own hands.
By Carol Ann