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Immigration After Brexit: Slough’s Diversity — and Economy — Could Suffer

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Slough, a large town in Berkshire, sits around 32 km west of central London, nestled on the very edge of the Greater London area. Known for its industrial estate and its position at the intersection of three major highways, it does not have a glamorous image. In 1937, the poet John Betjeman immortalized the town with the infamous lines: “Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough! / It isn’t fit for humans now.” Betjeman later regretted the harshness of this poem, which posited Slough and its rapid industrialization as a sign of ominous modernity.

Despite its negative portrayal, for many years, Slough has been booming. It has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the United Kingdom: in 2017, unemployment stood at 1.4 percent, around one-third of the UK average. There are several reasons for this. The much-maligned Slough Trading Estate — the largest industrial estate in single private ownership in Europe — provides over 1700 jobs in 400 businesses. The town is home to the largest number of global corporations outside of London, hosting the UK headquarters of Mars, McAfee, Lego and Burger King, among other firms. But Slough’s successful local economy could run into problems. A recent paperby the Centre for Cities and the London School of Economics found that Slough was one of the five places in the United Kingdom most likely to be hurt by Brexit — through changes not only to migration but also to trading rules, given the prevalence of the professional services sector.

Outside the capital, Slough is the most ethnically diverse area in the United Kingdom. More than 150 different languages are spoken here, and the last census found that two out of every five residents were migrants. People began coming to Slough in search of work in the 1920s. The first wave came from Wales, the next ones from Scotland, then Ireland, then further afield — migrant workers from India and Pakistan were among those attracted by the abundance of jobs. Polish migrants were the first to arrive after the war, and this long-established community grew significantly after 2004, when Slough saw a big influx of workers from Poland, along with people from other Eastern European countries when these nations joined the European Union. Their presence is visible around the town in specialty food markets, delicatessens and cafés. While Slough has often been held up as a model of integration, its increase in migrants has been accompanied by the departure of some white British people. In 2001, there were almost 70,000 white British people living in Slough. By 2011, that number had dropped to less than 49,000. White British people are now a minority in Slough.

Source: https://www.cigionline.org/articles/immigration-after-brexit-sloughs-diversity-and-economy-could-suffer

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