A few years ago, Aegean Airlines poked fun at the influx of Greeks in London with a cheeky commercial that went viral in Greece— and throughout the European Union.
“With more Greeks in London,” the commercial noted, the airline has responded with more regular flights between Athens and the British capital.
The joke of the commercial is in stark contrast with the fears following the results of the referendum in England to leave the European Union, which will no doubt, have consequences on the thousands of Greeks living, working and studying in the United Kingdom.
One word— uncertainty— can define the matter now, especially when the facts are considered.
An estimated 400,000 young Greeks left Greece in the past few years, according to a story in Kathimerini, to find work or attend university abroad and England is, by far, the most popular destination.
A pre-crisis estimate put the UK’s Greek diaspora at 400,000 people— although this includes large numbers of Cypriots in addition to the Greek nationals who are recent arrivals.
Hundreds of thousands of Greek students currently studying at UK universities could lose special EU discounts that are currently available to EU nationals.
Thousands who are currently working in London and other UK cities might also be forced to leave or might have to register as foreigners, like other non-EU residents who arrive in the UK from outside the bloc.
Anastassis Spiliadis, a Greek psychotherapist working in London for the National Health System (NHS) worries about prospective Greek students in the United Kingdom.
“I am very worried about prospective students who would now need to double up their budget, as they will have to start paying international student fees and therefore might have to reconsider studying abroad or looking into other options.”
He adds that “Also, Greeks looking for work opportunities might have to apply for a visa, which will obviously make the whole process very complex, if not unrealistic.
But Spiliadis mentions more deep-rooted problems as a Greek living and working in London.
“Above all though, I am extremely concerned about the continuous growth of extreme right-wing populist parties, such as UKIP, who have achieved a nationwide penetration. I’m worried about how they promote racist views and acts and can’t even imagine how current uncertainty could lead to broader changes. In particular I fear that London might start losing its multicultural, multi religious, open and democratic character, which has always acted as its strongest differential advantage! Im worried about thus city splitting into “us and them”, “in and out”, “either-or” discourses. Its a real paradox though, as it looks like a bit of a parallel process with how things and people have split in Greece – I wonder whether Greeks in London are re-living the Greek crisis – collapse that took place a few years ago?”
Another issue will be the hundreds of shipping companies that make up a huge part of the London economy which have headquarter offices in Athens, or are closely linked with Greek shipping families. These company enjoy borderless transactions and ease in doing business in Greece and other EU nations.
England will now undertake a series of negotiations with the European Union on how exactly the “divorce” will be negotiated. These negotiations will no doubt occur between individual member states, including Greece, on how bilateral relations will unfold.