Many Finnish professionals living and working in the United Kingdom are facing continued uncertainty about their careers as the deadline for Britain to quit the EU looms.
The UK is set to leave the other 27 European Union countries at the end of next month and while the British government and EU negotiators have signed a deal, it hasn’t been approved by the British parliament. The prospect of a no-deal departure has so far not been ruled out by Theresa May‘s government in London.
The ongoing political instability over Brexit is having a tangible impact on Finns who are employed in the UK.
At Prestwick Airport near Glasgow, Pekka Muronen works for a company doing heavy maintenance on EU-registered passenger aircraft.
“The greatest impact of Brexit for me has been in the workplace” says Pekka.
“Should there be a no-deal Brexit on the 29th March 2019 then our European Aviation Safety Agency license, issued by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority will be become void causing all work to halt. Our engineers’ licenses would also become void and they could no longer work on EU-registered aircraft” he explains.
The solution to the problem – Pekka calls it a “doomsday scenario” – was to get engineering licenses trasferred to the Irish Aviation Authority, and seek additional permissions as a non-EU country to do essential maintenance on EU-registered planes, like the new generation Boeing 737-800 which are a mainstay of the company’s work.
It’s been a costly process, but not being able to continue working after Brexit is also not an option for the Scottish firm.
“We have a workforce of almost 600 people so the livelihood of many families relies on the company’s continued ability to continue work on EU registered aircraft. These are just some of the ‘real’ things that will happen after Brexit but which are never discussed in the public domain and definitely not by any politician. They seem to think it is only about trade deals and immigration” Pekka tells News Now Finland.
As he moved to the UK in 1999, and is married to a UK citizen, Pekka will be eligible to apply for the new settled status the British government is offering to people who have spent more than five years in the country.
Theresa May recently backtracked and said her government will cover the £65 (€74) cost of applying for settled status.
At present, Pekka has no plans to apply for a British passport but reckons there might come a day when he gets a Scottish passport instead. Nationalist politicians north of the border have been hedging their bets over whether the time is ripe to call for another independence referendum for Scotland, but ministers seem to be making plans to do so if Brexit becomes an unmitigated disaster.
“In the case of Scotland becoming independent I would most definitely consider taking Scottish nationality and becoming a dual nationality holder” says Pekka.
“My son is already both British and Finnish citizen and holds two passports. Having a Finnish nationality will guarantee him the right to study, work and live in any EU country should he wish to do so”.
London calling for legal reasons
When Roosa Tarkiainen moved to London to study law, she imagined that she’d have a ‘passportable’ qualification which would be recognised across the European Union.
Then came Brexit, and the uncertainty of knowing whether her degree and professional exams will be worth the paper they’re printed on in the event of a no-deal departure.
In the short term, Roosa has signed a training contract with a law firm and plans to apply for settled status in Britain. Her job binds her to the UK until 2022 when she qualifies as a solicitor.
With some degree of job security in the next few years, along with faith in the system, Roosa is confident that she’ll get settled status as an EU national. But looking further ahead, nothing is so clear cut.
“A more long-term and career-related concern is that with my qualification as a solicitor here, I won’t be able to practice law in the rest of the EU” she says.
At present there’s a ‘free movement’ of lawyers protocol in place in the EU, where lawyers can practice law in any other EU member state. However, to obtain the local equivalent title of ‘lawyer’ in another country – asianajaja in Finland – she would either have to practice law for three years or take an exam which is governed by EU directives rather than individual member states.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal in place, there’s no guarantees at all that Roosa could practice law anywhere else than England and Wales.
“Overall I’m just frustrated with the way the whole Brexit process has been dealt with here, beginning with an extremely misinformed vote to leave, and now with the never-ending political drama. What’s most unsettling is the uncertainty, and I do worry about the negative impacts of Brexit on the UK in the long run” she tells News Now Finland.
“Staying here for work, but Brexit sucks”.