So all cards are up in the air! A general election is scheduled for June to decide who will be leading our country in our Brexit negotiations. There’s a lot of uncertainty but one thing is for sure… whoever gets the job to deal with Brexit has a hard job on their hands (I’m just glad its not me!)
As it currently stands, by not assuring the rights of EU citizens in the UK, Theresa May has squandered an opportunity to give peace of mind to our EU co-workers working and living in Rotherham (and the rest of the UK). Downing Street’s point of view is that, in promising the rights of EU citizens in the UK, it will postpone the same guarantee to the 1.5 million UK citizens living in the other nations of the EU.
Putting aside the politics for one second, the simple fact is now Article 50 has been triggered, we have two years to make a deal with the EU – otherwise we face the reality of a ‘no deal’ situation. This will be a very ‘hard Brexit’.
You might not think a hard Brexit will affect you in your home in Rotherham… but nothing could be further from the truth.
Of the 255,334 people who live in our area, 1,712 were born in EU countries from Western Europe and 2,755 were born in EU countries from Eastern Europe (the rest coming from other countries around the world).
The rights of these EU citizens living in the Rotherham area are currently not guaranteed and will now be part of the negotiation with Europe. Our EU next door neighbours have had the right to live, to work, to own a business, to possess a property, to access health and education services and to remain in a UK after retirement… yet those acquired rights are up for negotiation in the next two years.
So, what would a hard Brexit do to the Rotherham property market?
A hard Brexit could cause a nuclear reaction when it comes to our property market. Until rights are properly guaranteed there is the possibility that every EU citizen would have to leave the UK.
In Rotherham, 65% of Western European EU citizens own their own home in the UK. If EU citizens had to leave these properties would need to be sold. Additionally, just under 74% of Eastern European EU citizens rent a property, so again all those rental properties would be vacated and come onto the market at the same time.
A hard Brexit leading to mass EU migration could mean 1,500 properties being dumped onto the housing market in a short period of time.
This would lead to a massive drop in Rotherham property values and rents, causing negative equity for thousands of Rotherham homeowners and leaving many buy-to-let landlords out of pocket.
While there is no certainty as to what the future will hold, both UK expats in the EU and EU citizens in the UK rights will no longer be guaranteed and will be subject to bilateral renegotiation.
All I ask is that the politicians are sensible with each other in the negotiations. A lot of the success of the Rotherham (and the UK) property market has been built on high levels of homeownership and more recently in the last 10/15 years, a growth of the rental sector with lots of demand from Eastern Europeans coming to Rotherham and the surrounding area to get work and provide for their families. Many Rotherham people have also invested their life savings into buying a buy-to-let property.
Much will depend on what is politically realistic.
Unilateral knee-jerk reactions and measures caused by a hard Brexit would not only likely cause major disruption or suffering to the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK, but also everyone who owns property in the UK. It’s been interesting that none of the leading parties have picked up on this in the opening weeks of the General Election conversation.
Politics aside – reaching the end of these two years with ‘no deal’ and a hard Brexit is really in nobody’s interest.