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British expats living in the UAE share their thoughts on Brexit

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Friday, June 24 marked a massive day in British politics, as the UK voted to leave the European Union. We asked UK expats living in the UAE how they feel about the decision, and what it means for them in the short-term future.

“I took advantage of the exchange rate being low”
Tim Wells, 31, is a fashion buyer

I would have liked the UK to stay in the EU, as I felt leaving would have major short and long term implications. When I heard the result I was in shock, as I thought that common sense would have come into play in the end.

I took advantage of the exchange rate being low and this will be something that I will keep a closer eye on over the coming months. In terms of investments and buying a property, both of which are on my radar, I think I will resist, as the level of uncertainty does not fill me with confidence. As I approach five years in the region, moving home was in the back of my mind. Now, with the projected impact that Brexit will have on my industry in the UK, it doesn’t seem like a wise move. I believe the best thing is to hold tight and see what happens over the coming years and in that time enjoy a more stable economy and retail scene here in Dubai.

Although I don’t agree with the outcome, the majority believe this is the way the country should move forward. With this in mind we should try and do our best to adapt.

“How would we feel about being branded immigrants?”
Sharon Parsons, 54, works in publishing

I am devastated about what has happened. I am very proud to be British and love my country, but I also feel – despite the frustrations and complex bureaucracy – we are better, stronger and safer as part of the EU. Mostly, though, this has made me feel embarrassed and ashamed by so many fellow Brexit Brits (not all, I hasten to add!) who have seen immigration as the only issue. The lack of compassion, and the sloppy belief that ‘all will be well now’ astounds me. How do they think that the country is going to run now? There isn’t even a plan.

I haven’t done anything financially (I have only a few investments in terms of property and pensions), and ultimately this won’t change my plans to come back to the UK – that will always be based on personal and family reasons – but it has made me worry about the future, especially for our younger generation.

Strange thought for all of us with a shiny ‘expat’ label in the UAE – or indeed any Brit enjoying life abroad – how would we feel being termed as ‘immigrants’? It’s horrible, right?

“Unlike my Facebook friends, I was really on the fence”
James Bartle, 31, is a filmmaker

Unlike most of my Facebook friends, I was actually really on the fence about it. I thought leaving might provide opportunity for the UK to shape its own future more, reclaim sovereignty and maybe offer an exciting set of new possibilities. When you look at the economies of Greece and Italy and what they’ve been through, you have to ask yourself was the EU really working? That said, I think being “part of the club” when it comes to trade and movement is obviously a good thing, too. So, I was torn. I’m certainly trying to see the positives in the decision. It will be interesting to see what happens now.

I think the exchange rate will be something to take advantage of if stays this low – and moves even lower. If it falls dramatically, it might be tempting to sell up here and buy somewhere back home – but a fall of that level probably won’t happen. I think it only affects you if you have large sums of money, where a few percentage points can make all the difference. It doesn’t change my plans though; we’re not planning on leaving the UAE for a while.

“I want to discern how the decision to leave the EU will affect my future back home”
Mia Lehwald, 27, works in marketing

I wanted to remain in the EU. I was initially shocked when I heard the response, although after giving it some more thought I believe we need to accept the result and all take responsibility for building a better UK that promotes peace with our European neighbours.

It has slowed my decision to buy property back home for the time being. The result has not prevented me from moving back home but after a five-year stint in the UAE, a move back to the UK was definitely on the cards for later this year. After the shock of Brexit, I’m now going to take the time to reconsider. Hopefully the current kneejerk reactions will settle over the coming weeks and months, and when they do, I want to discern how the decision to leave the EU will directly affect my future back home. I want to base my decision on facts, not opinions, and this will take some time to understand.

“Brexit hasn’t changed my plans remotely”
Lee Cousens, 44, works in the oil and gas industry

Honestly, I had no strong feelings on the vote either way, so when I heard the decision I wasn’t overly concerned. It’s not something I feel is of real importance to my life, really. If I had a huge sum of money laying around, I might have taken advantage of the exchange rate, but there are no investment or financial decisions that I will be making in light of the result. The people have voted so we’ll just have to see what happens.

It hasn’t changed my plans or thinking about the future at all; everything is dictated by work and family life here in the UAE. If we were to look somewhere else, the decision would be based on the ability to find a job in a country where my family will be secure and happy. That could be the UK or it could be Canada, but I really doubt Brexit would factor into it.

“I think it’s likely we will all be in Dubai longer than we originally thought”
Katie Daniels, 31, is an account manager

I’m so disappointed; I’ve always been proud of what I thought Britain stood for, tolerance and inclusivity. I feel as though that belief has been shattered in the past few days and I’m seeing a country that I don’t recognise or identify with. I feel that the outcome is an indication of a misdirected anger about a lot of issues, rather than an informed assessment of the EU.

It’s also really interesting that the majority of young people voted to stay in the EU – it’s a pity that the voices of the generations who will have to live longest with the consequences of this decision have been drowned out. More than anything, this referendum has been horribly divisive for the country, and that just makes me so very sad.

I haven’t done anything yet – I do have an investment ISA and I am concerned about the impact that a potential recession could have on this. It would be foolish to have a kneejerk reaction when it comes to finances. I need to do more research about what my options are before deciding what to do for the best.

I believe that the decision will have a negative impact on the British economy. I think it’s very likely it could trigger a recession and we will all be in Dubai a longer than we originally thought because of fewer job opportunities at home (I do love it here though, so I’m OK with that!)

“The result has cemented that I’m happy I made the move to the UAE”
Hannah Shanks, 25, works in PR

I wanted us to stay in the EU. I felt very nervous and surprised about the result as I was adamant that we would remain. The first thing I did was text my Dad to ask his advice on what he thinks this will mean in regards to the British economy and whether I should look at moving my money to or from the UK.

I will be transferring money home as soon as possible to make the most of the excellent exchange rate. I have already booked to go home in a few weeks to visit family, but the result certainly cemented that I am happy I made the move to the UAE and will be remaining here for the foreseeable future.

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