By Bev Haigh-Jones

This month we have a very sad, personal story from John. It highlights many hidden consequences of the disaster that is Brexit. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have not been directly affected by the changes could well live in ignorance of the devastating impact that it has had, and will continue to have, on the lives of many.

The article tells of the difficulties that John himself experienced, but it also throws a spotlight on other people and organisations in the same field who have suffered. The language school that has closed, the local businesses that have lost valuable, reliable income, the students who can no longer take advantage of the same learning facilities and the UK itself, for the loss of yet more expertise and experience – all unanticipated, collateral damage of an ill-considered, rash action by our government.

We are really grateful to John for sharing his story and extremely glad that he has now found a new life in France, where he will eventually return to the EU fold on a permanent basis. Let us hope that it won’t be too long before the rest of the UK can achieve a similar result.


John

My experience was quite catastrophic.

I’m a highly-qualified teacher of technical English as a foreign language, with 35 years’ experience in the engineering industry and universities. It’s a highly specialist niche market, requiring a good understanding of electrical, mechanical and aeronautical engineering, and I have an excellent reputation for getting outstanding results with my students.

For the last few years, I’ve worked during the winter, and gone sailing during the summer. In early 2016, I contacted a language school in Plymouth, and offered my services from the autumn. At the mention of my name they jumped at the chance, and I arranged to come to the school in September as soon as I returned to the UK. They had a contract to deliver intensive technical English to the staff of a leading aviation company in France, who would be coming over for placements of around 30 days, living with a host family and having around 6 hours of lessons each day. It was a contract worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds to the school, the teachers, and to the host families who were paid generously for the B&B, as well as local cafes.

The referendum came and went, and I returned to the UK and went to the school where I introduced myself. The young receptionist was terribly embarrassed and apologised profusely. The school had lost the contract following the referendum result, and the work had gone to a school in the Irish Republic. I was taken aback, but not overly worried: I had high level MOD security clearance, and had taught at Britannia Royal Naval College, HMS Raleigh, and the UK’s Defence Academy previously, and I was confident that I would have no difficulty finding work. I contacted the Academy, and they were delighted to hear from me. We discussed a start the following month, and then just as we were ending the call, I was told, “Oh, by the way, the pay has changed.” I was very pleasantly surprised by the idea of a pay rise: the previous time I had worked there, the rate of pay was £169 per six-hour day, plus full board in the officers’ mess (3-course breakfast, two course lunch three course formal dinner) and generous travel expenses there and back.

“Really?” I asked, with barely concealed excitement.

“Yes,” came the reply. “It’s now £80 per day, and no expenses.”

It took a few moments to sink in. So, out of my £80 daily fees, I would have to pay for B&B (about £45/night in Swindon) plus all my meals, plus 300-odd miles travel there and back. That meant I would be taking home about £60 for a 30-hour week. Obviously it was a non-starter. I ended up (on the basis of my spotless Disclosure – my sole infraction was a parking ticket in 1972) working as a caretaker at an infant’s school in Plymouth. When I next passed in front of the language school the building was empty – it had closed down. Apparently, it was not the only school to close, and with scores of unemployed teachers, the imbalance of supply and demand meant that market forces knocked the bottom out of the market, resulting in a 90% pay cut for people such as myself.

Working at the school for a year did have one unforeseen advantage though: I was able to cash in all my ISAs and put the money into the local government pension scheme, with the result that I now have a quite reasonable pension. I decided to set off and do an extended two-year cruise on the French canals before visa restrictions made it impossible. At the end of the trip, a few days before returning to Cornwall, I met a lovely French lady. I stayed in France to be with her. We are now married, and I have permanent residency rights in France, away from the influence of the corrupt and incompetent idiots in Downing Street. Supermarket shelves were groaning with produce for Christmas, there is no problem with fuel, electricity, or water, and the rules on social distancing and masks are clear and logical, so the vast majority of people follow them without problems.

Sadly, I see first-hand that UK Plc has lost all respect and credibility here in Europe. The general consensus is that the English were a bunch of turkeys who voted for Christmas, and they are now beginning to realise that the unicorns they voted for do not exist. It will take decades, or even generations for the UK to regain the international respect that it had until just five years ago. I will not have to endure that, as I am counting the days to when I will be eligible for French nationality and a French passport which will restore my EU citizenship.

~ John Holloway (Dr)

Featured photo by onurdongel on Unsplash