Between Covid-19 and Brexit, the French in London in full doubt

The Café-Crémerie in South Kensington, the French Quarter of London, in 2016.

It is difficult to cross paths while respecting social distancing between the shelves of La Page, one of the only French bookstores in London, in the heart of the very chic district of South Kensington. “Do you have notebook protectors?” “, a father asks a saleswoman, while others inquire about orders for school books. The first novels of the French literary re-entry, Clairefontaine notebooks and Tann’s satchels are prominently placed.

It is 4 p.m. this Friday in early September. On the opposite sidewalk, teenagers are leaving the French Lycée Charles-de-Gaulle in clusters. The Institut français, which has just reopened, and the consulate are just a stone’s throw away.

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This back-to-school 2020 almost breathes normality in the most French of the districts of the British capital, despite the Covid-19 epidemic, which still lurks, and the many shops still closed.

However, many French residents of London, who are far from all staying in South Kensington, have many questions. What is their future in this world capital of almost nine million inhabitants, the economic heart of the country – it generates nearly a quarter of the British gross domestic product (GDP) -, and until then known for its professional opportunities, its multiculturalism, its vibrant artistic scene as well as its superb green spaces?

The Covid-19 recession is likely to be one of the most violent in Europe, with GDP falling between 11.5% and 14% in 2020

Brexit took place on January 31, 2020 and its effects should really be felt on 1er January 2021, at the end of the transition period, with the entry into force of a much more restrictive migration policy. As for the recession linked to Covid-19, it risks being one of the most violent in Europe, with a fall in GDP of between 11.5% and 14% in 2020, according to the Organization for Cooperation and economic development (OECD).

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Due to sanitary measures [les personnes revenant de France doivent s’isoler quatorze jours], “Many compatriots had to give up their summer vacation, which was not very good for morale”, emphasizes Olivier Bertin. At 52, this consular adviser, who built his professional life in London, does not see himself giving up everything to return to France.

“It looks like a country in decline”

Arrived in the early 1990s, like many, to perfect his English, he worked for sixteen years at the French high school, and now runs two private nursery schools in the beautiful districts of the capital. However, I want to stay in London less. Because of Brexit, we feel we are less welcome. I was on holiday in Lisbon this summer, and I found there the atmosphere of London in the 1990s, this euphoria, that of a dynamic country, while here, it looks like a country in decline. “

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