This England: a gaunt view from Ghent

This sceptred isle, this other Eden, this England and all that. I like to imagine this speech from Richard II spoken in a Flemish accent, given it is delivered by John of Gaunt – or as we now call it, Ghent.

Ghent is a great place to spend a few days, something like a combination of Oxford and Newcastle with an ancient, well-preserved city centre, a major port and lots of students. But going round its excellent museums you get a sense of departed glory. STAM, the city history museum, uses graphics to show how Ghent’s population was comparable to Paris and Brussels in the 16th century. But Ghent is now a city of just quarter of a million people. Continue reading “This England: a gaunt view from Ghent”

Brexit doesn’t have to mean Techxit

The technology bosses I spoke to last week for The Register were largely dismayed by the Brexit vote. Some are personally affected, as non-British EU citizens waiting for confirmation that they can stay. Others are starting to deal with the issues; LMAX Exchange boss David Mercer emailed all his staff, including about 30 European IT employees, saying he would get them visas if necessary.

Many of the worries of technology firms, along with other high-skill sectors such as healthcare and academia, would be soothed if immigration for skilled Europeans was to remain relatively easy. Theresa May is making it clear that Britain is not keen on an EU deal that retains complete freedom of movement. But the government could achieve its goals of cutting mass immigration by allowing some industries plenty of latitude to hire across the EU – and perhaps from the likes of Australia, Canada and New Zealand – while tightening up on unskilled jobs. Continue reading “Brexit doesn’t have to mean Techxit”

Map of the month: the Brexiteers of London

London voted to stay in the EU, by 2.26m votes to 1.51m. But it didn’t do so consistently. A majority in five outer boroughs voted to leave, with Havering’s 69.66% being the 12th highest leave vote of any of the 382 areas counted. Several of capital’s remain-voting areas did so very strongly, with Lambeth (21.38%) being second only to Gibraltar and the third to eighth places in the list being taken by other inner-London boroughs.

This map shows the range of this 48 percentage point difference. A lot has been made of the divide between the capital and other parts of England and Wales, but the capital is more divided than any other region or nation despite the fact that unlike all the others it consists of a single urban area. Even the East of England, which includes some of the strongest leave-voting areas on one hand and strongly remain-voting Cambridge on the other, had only a 46 point gap. Continue reading “Map of the month: the Brexiteers of London”

Brexit: tech firms start moving investment from UK

My piece for The Register on early reactions to Brexit and Theresa May’s new government, based on interviews with 10 companies, finds that a few have already decided to move new investment away from the UK. Nothing major, and none talked about shifting existing work from Britain; but there is a lot of worry about the supply of European techies being closed off.

Adam Hale, chief executive of Fairsail, says: “If we can’t hire the right number of people, or it becomes harder to hire EU nationals, our only alternative will be to offshore some or significant amounts of development.” On a more personal level, some people who run start-ups are thinking about whether they belong elsewhere. Daniel Rovira, a London-based Swedish national who runs Itcher, is thinking about Barcelona: “You feel a little bit not wanted in a country you came to think of as your home,” he says of Britain. Continue reading “Brexit: tech firms start moving investment from UK”

After Brexit, the NHS will have to home-grow its people

The NHS was never going to get an extra £350m a week from Britain leaving the European Union. Boris Johnson, who spent the last few weeks on a bus pushing this claim, is a political corpse. But missing out on this money will not be the health service’s biggest Brexit challenge.

It looks likely that a post-Brexit Britain will control immigration more tightly than it has as part of the EU. As NHS England head Simon Stevens said during the referendum campaign, the health and care sectors depend heavily on 135,000 EU staff, about 5% of the total workforce. Continue reading “After Brexit, the NHS will have to home-grow its people”