I’ve never liked the idea of people splitting up. This is no doubt some unresolved childhood trauma surrounding my own parents’ separation. Being the Anglophile I am, It came as a relief then, when The UK decided it was ‘better together’ back in 2014. Now, as an in/out referendum looms for Britain in June, I’m starting to get separation anxiety once again. This time however, the prospect of a divorce has never seemed so auspicious.
Britain leaving the EU will have major implications for anyone currently or wanting to teach in Europe and for the first time, Britons may yet have to prove their worth when it comes to working in their own back yard.
There are several scenarios, should the UK decide to leave The Union, but let’s start with what we know.
If Britain leaves, The Republic of Ireland will be the only native English speaking country in the EU.
Both scenarios depend on how the UK restructures its relationship with the EU (i.e. by staying in the EEA [European Economic Area] like Switzerland and Norway). One scenario is British teachers of English being on equal footing with teachers from the US, Australia, and Canada when it comes to competing for jobs on the Continent. Without the reciprocity agreements for work and living in member states as granted by the EU, British citizens jeopardise their preferred status in hiring. They too would have to go through the bureaucratic hell what so many non-EU citizens go through when looking for work in Europe.
Take a look at this screenshot from tefl.com:
Notice the little EU flag next to each advert?
By preferred, they generally mean “we can’t hire you if you don’t have the right to work in the EU.” Expect a lot of doors suddenly closed to you because of this.
Another scenario would see Brexit as a boon for European non-native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) who, thanks to Europe’s extremely restricted labour market, will be in much higher demand as language schools may not want to go through the lengthy and expensive work visa application process. This prospect interestingly enough may remove any locus standi for European NNESTs facing discrimination in hiring abroad as they will have they luxury of working visa-free in at least 30 countries in Europe while the rest of us can only dream of working there.
In sum, it’s up to the people of Britain to decide whether they are in or out of the European Union. But those that want out should think carefully about what life is like on the outside. Unless the EU changes it’s rules on immigration (and in light of the tragic events in Brussels and the ongoing refugee crisis, I don’t foresee this happening) British teachers may well have to look beyond the fortress of Europe to practise their craft.