But What Will It Mean? Brexit’s Impact on Housing, Nursing and Automation
Following the triggering of Article 50 yesterday, we asked our expert panel what the likely impact of Brexit will be on housing, nursing and automation.
Housing - Marjorie Mayo, Emeritus Professor of Community Development at Goldsmiths University
One of the myths of the Leave campaign was that immigrants have been putting too much pressure on Britain’s housing. But housing campaigners have been absolutely clear in their response to these claims: the housing crisis is emphatically not caused by immigrants. Many migrants and refugees are homeless or trapped in the very worst housing conditions, sharing garages and sheds in some areas, packed into caravans in others.
Brexit will not tackle the problems of a profit-driven market, developers and landlords furthering social cleansing, unaffordable rents, short term tenancies and poor quality housing in the private rented sector. Nor will Brexit lead to increasing supplies of new homes – rather the reverse. Brexit could actually make the crisis even worse, as a result of skills shortages in the construction industry.
There could be some beneficial side effects even so. The Axe the Housing Act campaign has already forced some concessions, as the weakening government becomes increasingly bogged down with Brexit. At least some of the worst excesses of this government’s attack on social housing could be put on hold.
Meanwhile housing activists, private, council and housing co-operative tenants and residents and trade unionists together continue campaigning for homes for all. For more information, including planning for the March on 24 June 2017, contact info@axethehousing act.org.uk.
Nursing - Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing
The NHS is reliant on the contributions of overseas nurses, including thousands from across the EU. However, despite Theresa May’s recent assurances, the government’s failure to offer any real certainty to EU nursing staff since the referendum has put our country at risk of losing many nurses and healthcare assistants who are doing essential work.
The UK is facing a severe nursing shortage. In 2010 the government cut training places, and as a result the NHS now has more than 24,000 vacancies in England alone. Overseas recruitment became more than useful – it became absolutely vital for safe patient care – and there are now more than 33,000 EU nurses working for our health service.
Yet despite their immense value to the NHS, these nursing staff have been offered no job security since the referendum – causing both current and prospective nurses to look to other options. More than 2,700 nurses left the nursing register last year, and the number of EU nurses seeking to join the register in England has dropped by 92% since the Brexit referendum.
The government risks shutting off a key supply of nurses, just when the country needs them like never before. The longer it waits to give EU nursing staff the security they need, the more we will lose – and the deeper the NHS crisis will become.
Jobs and Automation - Nick Srnicek, Lecturer in International Political Economy at City University
In terms of automation, the UK presently lies far behind not only the world leaders but also its fellow OECD members. One recent report, for instance, finds that the UK has an operational stock of robots that is less than half that of the OECD average. This lack of automation is also expressed in the UK’s perennial problem: low productivity. Both before the 2008 crisis and after, the UK has been a laggard in productivity growth – more dependent on low wage, low-skill employment than investment in new technology.
How does the post-Brexit future look then for automation? On the one hand, the shortage of labourers brought about by the reduction in immigration may spur some businesses to invest in automation. Yet business investment continues to disappoint, and there is little evidence that Brexit will generate profitable opportunities for a reversal of this trend.
With rising inflation and attacks on labour rights, the UK is also expecting continuing low wages – meaning that workers will remain cheap relative to robots. The Tory government, meanwhile, seems ill-prepared for any automated future. Suggestions of investing more in the economy have been repeatedly pushed aside in favour of a continued focus on austerity. Symptomatic here is the recent announcement that the government will provide £17 million for AI research – a token amount in a field that is rapidly developing. Given these trends, the UK looks set to continue along its low-automation, low-wage path in a post-Brexit world.