Yesterday I was told that my brother-in-law was either made redundant or sacked from a city banking firm. Their reasoning was Brexit. He had been at the firm for 19 years as a trader.
Last Thursday, as he carried on his normal day-to-day duties, a random messenger appeared at his desk with the delivery of a white envelope. In it, there were words to the effect of:
‘thanks for slogging your socks off for 19 years. We took a vote as to who should get the boot and you lost the personality contest. We are doing this because we are having to deal with Brexit. You weren’t the first and you sure as hell won’t be the last. You now have 30 minutes to pack your stuff up, say goodbyes and hand your pass in before security escort you off the premises.’
I paraphrase to an extent. But not very much. The firm, let us call them Soldman Gachs, is not unusual in the way it perceives Brexit, nor from what I can gather in the City, the way it gets rid of those staff they have no desire to keep anymore.
The City life is brutal and the general population of individual who works in that sector is pretty ghastly. After all, how much satisfaction can you get making money from making money off of other people losing money? Yet on both a human, economic and social level, the rapidity of the Brexitings of staff from the banking sector has to be a massive cause for worry.
On an economic and social level, the City makes up more than 17% of the GDP of UKPlc, around £565bn. This means it is a massive contributor to the regions, to schools, hospitals, pensions, defence, roads, rail and benefits. To give it context – it pays for the NHS five times over. Every job lost or moved to mainland Europe means one less person paying tax and a smaller tax take to spend on the services that are all too often needed by the most vulnerable in society. The irony of course is that it is also these people who voted for Brexit and so in some spiteful sense it could be said that the chickens are coming home to roost. Vote for taking back control then you also vote to take back control of nothing being left to take back control of.
On a human level, the man has a wife, two kids and a mortgage. He has just tipped into the mid life crisis age of 40 plus when it is to late to retrain and to early to retire. His 19 years of work experience is now worth squat as many banking institutions are set to get rid of people with the similar skills as him. Which means shrinking demand and increasing supply – in short – as it stands with his current knowledge he will remain unemployed and become increasingly unemployable.
Many of us believed that the economy needed rebalancing from one so deeply reliant on one sector to provide the money to pay for our social welfare. But whilst the banking sector is set to shrink their is no coherent vision of what should take its place and how the UK should get there. Manufacturing, farming, steel and mining are all dead whilst tech and start ups will look to Europe and the US to set up their ventures. Tourism, marketing and building weapons can only take us so far.
When our next Prime Minister, whichever woman it is, only has work experience outside of politics in the banking sector will they really be the best person to work out where Britain’s economy goes next? Almost certainly not, and that really bodes ill for my brother-in-law and the tens of thousands of other City workers who will join him with a P45 in the near future. And it also bodes ill for the rest of us as we watch, completely powerless, as the multinational firms up-sticks and head to Frankfurt, Dublin, Paris, Hong Kong, New York and Singapore taking their money and their jobs with them.