Brexit: Are we over the line yet?

Brexit door

When one door closes another one stays closed too

Nigel Nelson is a regular contributor to Brits in Toronto, and is a member of the non-profit Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP), and Past Chair of the (also) non-profit International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP).

Here’s his latest thoughts on pinning the tail on the PM, Brexit, pensioners in Canada who receive the UK State Pension, and the upcoming Canadian election. All views are the CABP’s and Brits in Toronto does not endorse them and is not held liable in any way. As always, do your due diligence.

I received an e-mail from British Bloke yesterday and he invited me to write an article on Brexit — he said that I could write something for him this week, or wait until after the weekend.

Did I want to write something now (and look foolish next week) or play it safe and write after the vote. I told him that I was very busy this week, and would next week be OK?

The e-mail from him came at a timely moment as my octogenarian friend James (you may remember that I first introduced you to James in the Ouch! How Brexit is hurting UK pensioners in Canada and in the later article James and I go to London) and I were playing pin the tail on the next PM. Even with a blindfold on, he managed to pin it on Elizabeth May three times out of five — he always has had a penchant for strong women.

I had to explain to him that Elizabeth May was not standing in every constituency, and since he lives in Ontario he will have to choose somebody closer to home …

In a nutshell, where are we with Brexit?

So far, this single issue has blown through two Prime Ministers: David Cameron and Theresa May (who submitted essentially the same “Withdrawal Agreement” to the UK Parliament four times in succession, only to have four resounding defeats, leading to her resignation) and now threatens the short tenure of Boris Johnson.

This last one seems very strange since he easily won the hearts and minds of the Conservative heartlands in becoming PM, and he has been very consistent in saying that the UK is leaving the EU on October 31, come hell or high water, with or without a deal.

But there has still been strong resistance in his own Party, never mind Opposition parties that could see and smell blood in the water already.

In order to avoid a head-on collision, Boris prorogued Parliament which was deemed illegal, then the Benn Act was passed which forbade Parliament from taking the “no deal” route, and, instead Boris would have to agree with the EU a new withdrawal date).

Boris then expelled 23 members of his own Party for voting against him (including a good friend of the “frozen” pensioners, Sir Oliver Letwin (no name dropping, but one of the cleverest men James and I have ever met)), and he has kept plugging away, even issuing a document this week entitled “No-Deal Readiness Report” and agreed a “new” deal with the EU.

This was put before the UK Parliament today (Parliament has only sat three times since 1939 on a Saturday.

What has all the fuss been about, you may ask?

Finding a solution in Ireland that suits Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the UK and the EU — an impossible task you may think. Everyone was agreed that there should not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (this would be like annulling the “Good Friday Agreement” and nobody wants to go there).

Boris has now agreed with the EU that the whole of the UK will leave the EU customs union. This will allow the UK to negotiate future trade deals with any country in the world. There will be different tax rates for goods that are transported to Northern Ireland, depending on where they are for use in Northern Ireland or whether they will be transported to the Republic of Ireland, and vice versa; goods that arrive in the Republic of Ireland will be taxed differently depending on whether they stay there or whether they are transported to Northern Ireland or the UK. More details of the “deal” can be found here.

Since my main interest in all of this is the impact any Brexit deal has on UK pensioners living in the EU. Essentially, if a Brexit deal is struck with the EU before the end of this month, then the UK pensioners living in the EU (of which, according to data from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) there were 498,000 as at February 2019) will continue to receive the annual increase to their UK State Pension (a bumper 4% next April) for the transition period which ends on December 31, 2020.

The transition period will then be used to negotiate reciprocal social security arrangements between the UK and each of the EU countries such that the UK pensioners living in the EU will continue to receive free healthcare and UK State Pension annual increases.

If the UK has not finalised a deal with the EU by October 31, then things get really interesting. Boris is adamant that the UK will leave by the end of this month, even if that means there is a “no deal,” and the Benn Act of Parliament prevents this from happening. The Benn Act is interesting because the Judiciary usually keeps its nose out of political decision making, but not so on this occasion.

So, if the UK does crash out of the EU on October 31, UK pensioners living in the EU will continue to receive the annual increase to their UK State Pension until 2023 — presumably because it will take much longer to negotiate bilateral social security agreements with each of the EU countries, since they will be really pissed off with the UK.

Also, with a “no deal” it is not clear whether the UK will still have to pay the divorce bill — which, according to the pillar of the British press, The Sun, is an amount “between £35 and £39 billion.”

It has taken a long time to get here, but how does this affect UK pensioners who have come her to Canada to retire?

According to Department for Work & Pensions numbers, there were close to 134,000 UK pensioners living here, and there will be no “bumper 4%” increase for them next April (there are over 26,000 of them who are receiving less than £20 per week (say, CAD 32), and another 50,000 who are receiving between £20 and £40 per week). A UK State Pension is “frozen” at the level at which it is first received, with no annual increase, ever.

So, by way of example, if you had retired from the UK and came here to Canada in 2001, aged 65, on a full UK State Pension, you would have received £72.50 (C$159) per week. You would still be getting £72.50 a week (C$119), but in real terms getting C$40 less per week due to the drop in the £ to CAD exchange rate. Since emigrating here, your peers back in the UK will have received £26,538 (C$47,026) less. If you are a retired UK ex-pat, this chart may help you see how much less you have received.

If you already affected, or think that you will be affected by the UK “frozen pension” policy, and would like to help us in our fight, please check out the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP) and they may be able to help you.

Once new bilateral social security agreements have been negotiated between the UK and EU countries, then the “frozen” pensioner action groups like CABP will challenge the UK Government on a “why them, and not us?” basis.

Finally (at last, you say), if you were one of the 3.4 million Advanced Poll voters, then congratulations. If you didn’t vote in the Advanced Poll, and you are eligible to vote, I implore you to get out and vote on October 21.

This could be a close federal election, and every vote counts. I have no idea who James will be voting for … he is playing his cards very close to his chest … but, to his chagrin, it won’t be Elizabeth May!

Where do you stand on the “frozen pensions” issue? Nigel can be reached through:

E-mail: theretiree@telus.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011398010359
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/FrozenBritishPensions/

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How will Brexit affect you? We’re looking for opinions: Part 1

Brexitsign

You MUST be affected by this, in some way, surely?

Jason Ho is a producer with CBC News and reached out to Brits in Toronto to put the word out that he’s looking for people who will be affected by Brexit in the following ways:

  • Supply chain — ability to get materials out of the UK to Canada and vice versa
  • Exiting or entering the country, consular services, visas, immigration issues
  • Healthcare service access
  • Anyone who’s getting paid in British pounds, worried about the cost of living in Canada if the currency fluctuates wildly
  • Concern about family members in the coming months and what the impact will be on the cost of living, supply chain within the UK
  • Effects we don’t know about but someone from Britain may be aware of
  • Those who Brexit will benefit in some way

You don’t have to particularly be a Brit expat, but do need to have a view or be affected by the above issues.

Please contact Jason directly at jason.ho@cbc.ca or 416-205-7420.

So, that’s Part 1.

If Jason gets enough respondents with the kind of feedback he’s seeking, then Part 2 will be that we all meet up at a British pub (got one already interested that has the space and allows media filming) the week before the Brexit deadline — so anywhere from October 25-29 — and Jason can take it from there for CBC News.

So, put the word out and contact Jason if you can help, then watch this space …

Xpat Xpo: Networking event and trade show for internationals living in Toronto

Xpat Xpo

“OK, hello Toronto! Now what?”

Are you an international living in Canada?

If you’re reading Brits in Toronto you may get asked that question a lot. You may also be asked to say the words “urinal,” “aluminium” or “water” a lot too for the cheap laughs. But we digress.

Created by a fellow Brit in Toronto, Kate Johnson wanted to share her knowledge, connections and experience with her fellow immigrants so started Xpat Xpo.

Xpat Xpo is a Toronto networking event and trade show created to celebrate Canada’s cultural diversity. It’s a one-stop shop; home away from home; where you can gain valuable knowledge as well as meet people from all over the world.

The Trade Show Floor features Service Canada, Immigration Lawyers, CRA, Desjardins, Health Canada, ACCES Employment, Entrepreneur Services (such as franchising) and more.

The Speakers Core has talks on renting/buying real estate in Toronto, how to get Permanent Residency, how to manage your finances abroad, and how to find your perfect job in the city.

The Networking Lounge has music, coffee, couches, flag face paint, FREE professional head shots to improve your LinkedIn profile, and prize-giveaways; so people can meet and mingle with others who have chosen Canada as their new home.

And best of all, use the promo code BRIT50 when you register for 50% off the price of admission (only $6!).

Date: Sunday, October 6, 2019 (This weekend!)
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Location: Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St., Toronto

Soldier On

Soldier On

Soldier On features a cast of actors and veterans

Jennifer Grose is the producer of Soldier On, a play about how veterans cope with coming back into civilian life. “It’s a sort of ‘Full Military Monty’, if you will,” she wrote.

“We are bringing it over from London, UK to Toronto this November and are looking to get the word out. We have Thomas Craig from Murdoch Mysteries in it and Lance Corporal Cassidy Little who is a former Royal Marine medic, who lost his right leg below the knee during a tour of Afghanistan in the summer of 2011. Most of the cast are from the UK and we will have a handful of Canadians as well joining them. Half are actors and half veterans.

“It was produced in the UK by the Soldiers’ Arts Academy (SAA), which is about creating a platform for the veteran community to engage with careers in the performing arts.
The play had its first performance at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter in 2018, and it’s been universally very positively received by both critics and audiences wherever it’s been on since.

“We were then invited to bring the show into London’s West End by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s team, and we ran for a month at The Other Palace Theatre in November 2019,” added Jennifer.

Now Soldier On will be coming to Toronto November 26 – December 8, 2019. For ticket information please visit www.soldierontoronto.com

Proceeds from ticket sales go to members of the Armed Forces and their families.
Military members and first responders are eligible for discounted pricing.

More information too on Instagram and Twitter.

British Expat Pub Quiz: Back To School

The Toronto Brit Meetup Group

Curly Wurlys and Hobnobs ahoy!

And we’re back. The summer break was great but we saw a leaf fall from a tree the other day. It’s done. Had an ugly cry in the shower and now we’re over it and looking for fun things to do in Toronto this autumn.

What a coincidence! Amanda from The Toronto Brit Meetup Group asked us to give a shout out to their next pub quiz night at the Duke of Somerset on Saturday, September 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Here’s the blurb (her words) from Amanda …

Please join us at our very popular pub quiz night, where you have the opportunity to meet fellow Brits to chat about all things British that you miss, over a pint whilst answering trivia questions for the chance to win a Curly Wurly or a packet of Hobnobs!

The quiz is a mixture of General Knowledge and specific categories, covering all things British, Canadian and the World.

This quiz, the theme will be BACK TO SCHOOL — however, as always, don’t always take our headings literally as we could throw in a spin to the theme just to keep things interesting!

Things you should know;

1. Please be at the Duke of Somerset by 7:00 p.m. at the latest.
2. Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m. sharp, so if you don’t have a seat and a drink by then, you might not be able to participate. We will aim to finish by 10:30 p.m.
3. Numbers are limited to 135 (legally by the pub for fire safety reasons), so the first 135 to RSVP and turn up on the night will have a shot at winning. Once we reach this number we will not be allowed to let anyone else in, so your RSVP doesn’t guarantee you a seat — hence the reason to get there early.
4. Teams are limited to 6 people maximum. Start thinking of your team name now.
5. You are welcome to come on your own, with a partner/friend/Mensa member, and we will join you up with other people on the night. More brain cells = prizes.
6. PRIZES!
1st prize – British goodies gift basket worth $125.
2nd and 3rd prizes – Duke of Somerset gift vouchers and a British goody bag.
4th to 10th prizes – British goody bags.
If you don’t make the top 10 teams, better luck next time.
7. On the night Amanda will be ably assisted by Charlotte and Yvonne who will allocate you to a team (if you want to be), collect your Meetup dues, collect the papers and hand out prizes. Phil will be on the microphone trotting out the questions as the Quizmaster. We will all be wearing name labels.
8. Name labels: we will have sticky labels and pens for you to all write your name on, and where you are from. It’s a Meetup, so let’s all meet someone new; however as much as you probably will meet new people, this event isn’t a “mix and mingle” type of event which we hold separately. We are all here for the questions and the chance of winning a Curly Wurly or packet of Hobnobs!
9. Cost: $5. Yvonne and Charlotte will be round to rattle the tin when the quiz gets going.
10. Looking forward to seeing you all soon.

So, there you have it. Pub … Brits … Curly Wurlys … what could be better?

Successful Brits in Toronto: Jake Wyatt

Jake Wyatt

If the photographer had moved slightly to the right and crouched down a bit, the ball on the trophy would have fitted exactly over the ball on the logo behind.

If you attended the recent Brits in Toronto and TFC British Heritage Night, you would have spotted a very tall bloke strolling around, looking down and surveying all in his BMO Field kingdom.

That would have been Jake Wyatt who came up with the idea in the first place, roped in all the local Brits in Toronto looking for some free PR on the back of a Championship-winning Toronto football team and the rest is history.

Since then we’ve had about five e-mails from people with the same surname Wyatt, which is really a coincidence, asking us to feature him as our latest Successful Brit in Toronto.

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

My journey towards living in Canada/Toronto has been interesting. I grew up in England playing basketball. I was a 6’4 lanky teenager and found my way into a local basketball team. Turned out I would fall in love with the game and decided to take it serious and ended up playing at a decent level.

At the age of 18 I left England to move to Iceland and play for FSU basketball team/ youth academy in the Icelandic town of Selfoss.

After spending one year in Iceland, I was offered a position with an American college basketball team in Pennsylvania. I graduated four years later and attended Grad School in Montgomery, AL. It was here that I met my Canadian wife Paige who was a fellow international student studying at a local college.

So yeah, long story short fell in love with a girl and here I am and couldn’t be happier!

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

I was lucky, I found out at an earliest age that I wanted to work in sports and I enjoyed selling; sports sales was a natural fit. I had some great mentors growing up who encouraged me to get as much experience in sports business as possible and I was able to do several internships/entry-level jobs in the industry. Once my wife and I decided Canada/ Toronto was going to be home, I started applying for jobs in my field.

Timing worked out and a job became available at MLSE in sports sales. I had decent experience working in sport business with a few different teams in the states and back in England — I also had a few connections in my network that helped me with references here at MLSE.

I applied for the position, and after a long process, battling with Skype interviews and time zones, I landed the job. I was still in England at the time, so was one of the lucky ones who had a job lined up as soon as I landed in Canada.

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

I love living here in Canada and being in this city. I had been lucky to travel at a young age. For me Canada/ Toronto is the perfect mix of England and USA.

The people here have a genuine friendliness to them. I loved my time in America, and met some great people who are now lifelong friends … the food, big roads, and American dream spoke to me!

However, as time went on I found people/relationships in the States (especially the south) can be service level. At times, when I was in the States I found myself missing the English greeting at a local pub — where you walk in and the bartender starts pouring a pint of Fosters, slams it on the table and sticks their hand out for the four quid you owe them, make some joke about your chosen attire, then proceeds to ask how your day was. Sounds strange I know, but I missed that when I was in the States; I found the “You’re Welcome/My Pleasure” interactions a bit false at times.

Here in Canada, I find the people are genuine and more able to keep up with the English banter, it’s a welcoming country of diverse people, but still has the “Canadian Dream” element. I find Canada welcomes people to be themselves. With such a wide range of cultures I have never felt the need to act or behave “Canadian” … instead, I find the country encourages me to be the best version of myself and add to society that way.

The toughest part of being here is distance from family and friends in the UK. I don’t feel homesick, but it is hard not being able to pop round and see family on weekends and having to allow for the five-hour time difference when communicating with friends and family back in England.

On the plus side it is always nice to visit home during holidays and host friends and family when they want to come out and visit.

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?

Since being here I have been surprised to see how big the “Brits In Toronto” community is. It is always nice to bump into fellow Brits and talk all things from pubs to English fry ups!

I recently worked with this blog and a number of the other English social groups to plan a Brits In Toronto event at a Toronto FC game. The event was great, and lots of people at the event were surprised with the standard of football this side of the pond.

Sorry, the salesman in me is coming out here … but attending TFC, Raptors and Leafs games is a great way to feel connected with the city and meet people; I have bumped into several Brits, especially at TFC games.

I am in a lucky position to sell a product I believe in. If anyone is interested in Toronto FC ticket packages or wants to meet up at a game please do reach out and contact me at jake.wyatt@mlse.com or 416-815-5400, ext. 3072. We have also set up a discount code with Brits in Toronto: click HERE and use the promo code “BritsInToronto” — this will get you up to a 25% discount on TFC tickets.

Okay sales pitch over! But to answer the question, yes I have made an effort to connect with fellow Brits and I am looking forward to continuing to do so in the future!

Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.

My advice would be to embrace your British roots but also accept that this is Canada and this is your home. This website and other groups on social media are a great way to stay connected with the British community.

But get involved in living in Canada — meet people, explore, and learn from different cultures. This city has so much to offer, from food, to festivals and professional sports teams. I still get the buzz when driving into the city, especially at night.

This is a special place and be sure to not become numb to the city. Remember the feeling of first being here and make a conscious effort to hold onto that feeling.

Oh and wear as many layers as possible in the winter, it is bloody freezing!

Thanks Jake. Didn’t notice the sales pitch at all, mate. If anyone wants to connect, here’s his LinkedIn profile.

Need to transfer money overseas? Maybe VFX Financial can help

VFXF

It’s the VFX Financial logo, very minimalist

Fellow Brit in Toronto Andy Hedges reached out to Brits in Toronto for help in getting the word out about a company he works for called VFX Financial, so we said we’d give it a quick plug. Here’s the details …

Anglo Canadian currency specialists VFX Financial have provided Brits in Toronto readers with an extra special rate for their currency needs. So whether you are already based in Canada and need to send money overseas (not just to the UK,) or you are in the UK and need some loonies, VFX Financial can help.

Highlights include:

  • Special rate for all Brits in Toronto readers.
  • No transfer charges.
  • Generally 2%-3% better rates than banks.
  • Suitable for both Brits coming to Canada and individuals and businesses already located here.
  • Free multi-currency card for UK/Eire based clients — perfect to save money when travelling as there are no overseas usage fees.
  • Same or next day delivery of currency.
  • Fully regulated in both Canada and the UK/EU.
  • No minimum or maximum transfer limits.

To benefit from the special negotiated rate, during the sign-up process, simply enter the word “Brits” as the intro code. You can e-mail Andy for more info too at brits@vfxfinancial.ca.

That’s about it, really. Full disclaimer: do your own research on all the above before signing up, Brits in Toronto cannot be held responsible for your dealings with the company and no money changed hands for this post, it’s purely for informational purposes.