From Grexit to Brexit: Greeks in Britain | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 03.08.2016
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From Grexit to Brexit: Greeks in Britain

Britain has been a favorite destination for young Greeks fleeing a youth unemployment rate of over 50 percent at home. But now, post-Brexit, many are concerned about their future, as Nick Barnets reports from London.

How quickly one doomsday scenario replaces the next. Last summer everyone was talking about Grexit, shorthand for a Greek exit from the eurozone. A third bailout loan package agreed and signed off more or less at the last minute managed to stave off that most disastrous of options.

Fast forward a year later, and, Brexit, Britain's exit from the EU, has become a reality after around 52 percent of British voters chose to leave the European Union in a referendum whose outcome sent shockwaves across the continent.

Anthimos Patsiouras moved to London four years ago and runs a Greek restaurant near Oxford Circus, called The Life Goddess, along with his business partners Nikos Nyfoudis, Giorgou Difoudi and Ilias Koulakiotis. He's not concerned so much about his own personal status as an immigrant from another country, but more so about the immediate impact Brexit has already had on his business.

Disruption

"Brexit is already disrupting our lives because we import food from Greece, which is in the EU, and with the Sterling down, it's more expensive to do so than it was before," he told DW. The trendy Greek restaurant currently has two branches in central London. "I came because I like challenges and I think this is a nice way to share Greek civilization and food and with a very nice design like we did here with The Life Goddess," Anthimos added.

outside of a restaurant copyright: Nick Barnets

Owners Anthimos and Nikos say their restaurant business is already feeling the post-Brexit impact

Konstantinos Moustakidis, who works as a bartender at The Life Goddess, moved to London just three weeks after the Brexit referendum. He hopes to save up enough money through working here in order to get his master's degree at a British university. Though Konstantinos is only now starting his new life in Britain, he's not deterred by Brexit and still hopes for the best. "Moving here after Brexit was a tough decision. My parents told me, 'where are you going, they're out of the EU now, how are the conditions there, how's the life there?' These are the major concerns but it is early days, I think nothing has changed here so far. Every beginning is a tough one but we live and we progress," he told DW.

One of the central themes of the leave campaign in Britain's EU referendum was the concern that there are simply too many immigrants coming into the country and that leaving the EU would fix that problem.

Indeed many EU migrants have come to the United Kingdom in recent years. According to the latest Eurostat estimates, more than 5.4 million foreign-born EU nationals reside in the UK, making up 8.4 percent of the country's population.

From the frying pan into the fire?

Though the UK has been one of the preferred destinations for those that have left Greece since a severe economic crisis hit the country seven years ago, they represent only a small portion of EU migrants, as 17 other EU nationalities exist in higher numbers in Britain. Greeks that have relocated to the UK are predominantly young people looking for work or to study at a British university.

Stella Christodoulopoulou, who directs theater and has lived in London for almost a year, isn't too concerned about Brexit affecting her personally just yet. "I think it's too soon to know exactly what will change," she says. Stella is sanguine about the situation having lived first through a possible Grexit and now Brexit.

woman using phone copyright: Nick Barnets

Stella says Brexit shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with Europe's political structures

Though Brexit happened by choice and Grexit was never officially on the table, Stella says one thing they have in common is the indication that something is seriously wrong in Europe. "On a personal level, I actually enjoy very much these challenges that occur in the political and social structures because I do not believe that the political structures that we have so far are sufficient for the majority of the people. So when a crack in this structure occurs, this is a good thing. The challenge is that you don't know where this will lead."

Any changes that will be made to Britain's immigration policy with regards to EU migrants already residing in the country, are still a work in progress. The country has not yet triggered Article 50, the process as decreed by The Lisbon Treaty which officially sets in motion a member state's exit from the EU.

Britain's new Prime Minister, Theresa May, said on her first day in the job that, "Brexit means Brexit." She also said a few weeks afterwards that Britain would not trigger Article 50 before the end of this year. Article 50 does not include any provisions on the state of EU migrants in an outgoing country, so that will be up to the UK as it negotiates it's divorce from the union.

While this may make it harder for EU citizens to move to the UK in the future, right now little is expected to change in the foreseeable future for those who already live and work here.

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