By Kirstin Ridley
LONDON, July 27 – In the early hours of June 24, before most Britons woke up to the fact their country had voted to leave the European Union, Peter Parkinson watched the results from his mother’s home in southeast England and decided that his future now lay in France.
By 5 a.m., his friend Tom Phillips had messaged on Facebook to ask him to help set up a newwebsite, “brexiles.com”, to persuade other disenchanted young professionals to quit Britain and seek jobs and even citizenship overseas.
“I’d already more or less decided I’d be a fool not to get back on the train to EU citizenship,” said Parkinson, a 35-year-old English computer science graduate.
Phillips, a 22-year-old law student, says he snapped up the brexiles.com name because he felt many Britons like him were dismayed by the vote to end 40 years of EU membership and, potentially, the freedoms to work in the continent and assorted islands that came with it.
“For young people, the brightest future now lies outside of the UK,” he says on the website. “When the ballot box lets you down, vote with your feet.”
Brexiles.com – part job listings, part campaign hub – gives 10 reasons for leaving the country including “telling the world that Brits can see beyond the Channel” and “getting paid in another currency,” after sterling’s slump against the dollar.
So far its visitor numbers are in the low thousands. But Phillips, who says he will one day consider taking the New York bar exam and moving across the Atlantic, says the reaction has been positive and the numbers are growing.
“A BAD SITUATION”
He wants to add more information on applying for citizenship in Europe, Canada and beyond, and how to transfer qualifications. He might start charging employers interested in recruiting British talent a referral fee.
“I think I’m facilitating the inevitable,” he said. “This website is just trying to make the best of what many people perceive to be a bad situation.”
Around 60 percent of voters aged over 65 plumped for the UK to leave the EU, or Brexit, pollsters say, driven partly by a desire to toughen immigration controls, forge new global trade deals and wrest back control from a Brussels bureaucracy seen as undemocratic and restrictive.
But nearly three quarters of 18 to 24 year-olds voted to remain in the EU, and many took to social media to vent their frustration at a vote they say has robbed them of a secure future and left the country politically, economically and socially diminished, damaged and divided.
Most job opportunities posted on brexiles.com are currently for lawyers wanted in the Republic of Ireland, whose legal system is closest to Britain’s out of all EU states.
The Irish law society says a record 186 lawyers from the UK joined the Irish legal roll in the buildup to the vote, and the number had now risen to 235 – just short of the 256 admitted over the previous four years combined.
Barry Crushell, an associate director at Dublin and London-based boutique legal, banking and finance recruitment firm Aperture Partners, says he used to focus on placing Irish candidates in London. Since the Brexit vote, he has received more enquiries from people wanting to go the other way.
The Royal Society of Chemistry is among those to have warned about the risk of talent draining from the UK after the Brexit vote, given uncertainty about access to EU funding for research, the freedom of researchers to work across the EU and how EU rules will be applied across the science and technology sector.
Parkinson had only recently moved back to Britain after a decade in France and had planned to stay to start a new career in law. But he has decided instead to take up a job offer back over the Channel.
“I have felt a certain amount of bitterness that my hand has been forced,” he said.