IN the days that followed the Brexit vote back in June 2016 there was one question being formed more than any other on the fingertips of those who voted Remain, according to data from search engine Google: “How do I move from the UK to Canada?”

While this one reached an all-time-high, other popular search terms included Gibraltar (particularly for Scots), Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, while “moving to Scotland” was also a frequent online query for those living in England and Wales.

The National:

But did people act on their impulses to escape the uncertainty of a post-Brexit future? International migration data from the UK shows only a 1% rise since the Brexit vote, which it is claimed does not accurately portray an increase due to the limitations on how the figures are gathered.

However, the Sunday National spoke to several people who were considering – or had already made a move abroad – and claimed Brexit played a substantial role in their decision to leave the UK.

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They include Michael Lambie, a 26-year stonemason from East Wemyss in Kirkcaldy, who has watched friends lose their jobs at Bifab and at other Fife based companies and worries that work opportunities could get tougher to come by outside of the central belt.

He voted Remain, but says he wasn’t surprised at the result. “When the UK voted to leave the EU I knew if I wanted to work and travel abroad – whether in Europe or elsewhere – it would be better to start planning sooner rather than later,” he said, noting the sudden rush for many UK citizens eligible for Irish passports to apply. “With Canadian visas being so limited I knew I had to get ahead of the curve if I wanted to get one.”

The National:

“Like most people my main concern is that we will be worse off [because of Brexit]. Really, it just made me depressed.” He started to weigh up his options, ruling out Australia and France.

After finding that Canada was crying out for stonemasons, he put his name forward for a working holiday visa lottery, hoping to get one of 5000 visas awarded annually under the International Experience Canada (IEC) programme late last year. New Zealand was his back-up plan.

Lambie counts himself lucky to be awarded a visa. The scheme is now so popular with those under-30 from the UK that it has reached capacity just two months into the year.

He is planning to relocate to either Vancouver or Ottawa in June and is now feeling more positive about his prospects.

“In a way Brexit actually encouraged me to look for new opportunities and pushed me into making my idea of working in another country a reality,” he says. “I plan on making my living in Canada for a year or two then look at ways to extend my stay if all goes well.”

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Suzey Ingold, 24, who grew-up in Aberdeen before relocating to Edinburgh when she started university, has already made the move, inspired in 2017 by the uncertainly and lack of job opportunities in the arts.

“I voted Remain – that wasn’t a decision I ever had to think twice about,” she says. “I believe that international cooperation is always going to be better for everyone. I’m also half Finnish and have dual citizenship, so I often consider myself European as a good way to encompass both parts of my background.

“I think I, like a lot of people, went to sleep on the night of the vote pretty confident of the result, and woke up in a parallel universe that seems to have become reality.” She has a vivid memory of the day after the vote.

“I was in Edinburgh and it was right in the midst of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where I’ve worked for many years. The day after the vote was grey and overcast, and despite the festival, the streets were incredibly quiet, and everyone was very sombre.

“It was as though someone had died and everyone was in mourning – it was eerie. To this day, I can’t believe it’s gone as far as it has. I keep waiting for them to realise what a mistake this all is and stop it but it just keeps going.”

She too considered moving to New Zealand but decided it was too far away, and Canada – with its working holiday visas for British citizens – became a clear choice, moving to Toronto aiming to work for its international film festival (TIFF).

She applied for the visa lottery in mid-December and found the process was “incredibly quick”. By the end of January she had confirmation of her visa. Like any major relocation it’s not been plain sailing – accommodation was initially hard to come by – but she’s found exciting work opportunities and good friends. Yet she is still undecided about her future.

“Long-term, I couldn’t imagine settling away from my family but right now I feel like I can’t make the decision on returning until there’s at least some kind of clarity on where the UK is going,” she says. She has 18 months left on her visa before she has to make a call. “If I had to make that decision today, I wouldn’t go back,” she says. “There’s enough uncertainties in your life in your mid-twenties without the country you’re living in being unstable too.

“I have a lot of British friends I met here in Toronto who moved around the same time I did, and while it may not have been the primary motivator, I think there’s a collective sense among us that we’re glad to be out of the country right now.”

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Her story is familiar to Hugo O’Doherty, who moved from Dublin to Montreal eight years ago and now edits the Moving2Canada information website. “Scotland has a strong link to Canada and it remains popular with Scots,” he says. “We have a dedicated section on our website because of Brexit. Every time Theresa May goes to Brussels and comes back empty handed it gets more views.”

He claims there are two main types of people looking for info – those who are aiming for permanent residency, and those seeking working holiday visas. “Some people might just want to come here for a few years to see what happens,” he says. Perhaps there are those who hope to shelter from the economic storm while travelling and clocking up experience, and return when the situation has stabilises, he hypothesises.

HE concedes the longer-term trend is still to play for. “It’s at the hypothetical stage,” he adds. “It remains to be seen if there really will be issues such as shortages of food and medicines due to tailbacks in Calais.” But if the economy takes an anticipated hit, he expects the numbers moving to increase.

Madeline Sumption, director of the Oxford Migration Observatory, claims that though available data already clearly shows trends such as a reduction in net migration of those from A8 countries, the same cannot be said at this stage for UK citizens leaving their home country.

“It’s a big upheaval to move country,” she says. “I don’t think that happens on political grounds, unless they are extreme such as those living under an oppressive government.” But other factors could hit home. “If the economy declines we may see more people leaving,” she says. “Uncertainty can also be an important factor.”

Some have already raised concerns that this uncertainty is impacting some sectors. Those from A8 countries – including Poland – who contribute heavily to tourism and construction industries and the effects of their departure are still unknown. Leading voices from various sectors have raised concerns about scientist and researchers leaving, while in December the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) reported “anecdotal evidence” EU staff are finding or considering new roles as a result of lingering uncertainly.

“We know the Brexit result and the overwhelming chaos and uncertainty that has followed has badly affected morale amongst university,” a spokesperson from Universities Scotland says. “It would be a further blow, though not surprising, to learn that Scottish and UK domiciled staff have chosen to further their careers elsewhere.

“Staff are the lifeblood of our universities and are a vital part of their success. They deserve certainty about our future relationship with the EU. The sooner we have clarity, the better.”