What do Londoners think Brexit will mean for the workplace?

by Sheila Nicoll

Posted: 20 Mar 2019

We commissioned ComRes to ask a panel of Londoners about the ways they think Brexit might affect life in the city, ahead of our Who is Welcome Here? event with the Bishop of London. 

Sheila Nicoll, Lay Canon (Finance) of St Paul's Cathedral, reflects on one of the headline findings of the research. 


Londoners hold a relatively negative view of what working will look like post Brexit, for example: two in five Londoners say they think Brexit will make it harder than it is today to get a job (41%), while one quarter say Brexit will make it easier (25%) and one third say they don't know (33%).

Given the significant uncertainty surrounding Brexit, I might have expected more people to answer "don't know" - but the poll was held in January and I am writing this in March, at a time when there is still no agreement as to the way forward, and only a matter of days until we are due to leave. We do, however, know, that in the 2016 referendum Londoners overall voted to remain (59.9% (2.3 million votes) for Remain - 40.1% (1.5 million votes) for Leave) so the negative view around job prospects may reflect a more general negative view towards Brexit.

We also need to remember the differences between the population of London and the rest of the country. Londoners are younger than anywhere else in UK (median age 34 vs 40 in rest of UK), more ethnically diverse than anywhere else in UK (45% of London is white British vs 92% in UK), more educated (58% vs 38% graduates in working age population) and earn more money than rest of UK. This "very different" population is also growing faster than rest of UK. If you had asked the same question of a wider UK population, you might have got quite a different answer, with perhaps, suggestions that it would be easier to get a job in a post-Brexit world.

I - as a Londoner working for a company that is UK-headquartered but operates globally - relish working in an international environment. I have benefited, during my career, from living and working in different parts of the world and am surrounded by people who are drawn to working in a company that offers them the opportunities to do the same. 18% of my professional colleagues come from elsewhere in the EU. Many of the parents or grandparents of colleagues came to the UK from countries with traditional strong affiliations with the UK. My house was largely rebuilt by amazing craftsmen from Poland, the care-workers where my mother lives were not born and bred in the UK, and when I go to a restaurant, the people who serve me rarely speak with a native British accent. Just walking along the street I hear a multitude of languages. I feel I have benefited from the openness of the UK to people from other countries, whether from the EU or elsewhere, and from the ease of studying and working in other parts of Europe. It would appear that Londoners share my concern that those opportunities may diminish as a result of Brexit. I just wonder what the answer to the same question would have been if it had been posed to the wider population of the UK? Those of us who have had the opportunity to work in, and enjoy, the cosmopolitan environment of London sometimes need to remember that we are not necessarily representative of the wider population of the UK.

About this author

Sheila is Head of Public Policy at Schroders and has particular oversight of finance and business on Chapter here at St Paul's Cathedral.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.