Expert: Brexit may affect Filipino migrants, remittances

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — After months of divisive rallying between "Leave" and "Remain" campaigners, Britons are voting on Brexit (British exit) – whether to withdraw or not from the European Union (EU).

The national referendum began Thursday 7 a.m. BST (Thursday 2 p.m. PHT) and will end 10 p.m. (Friday 5 a.m. PHT).

Despite being over 10,000 kilometers away from the United Kingdom (UK), the Philippines will be affected by the historic decision, an expert on European affairs said Thursday.

Read: The non-Brits guide to Brexit

Prof. Manuel Enverga III of Ateneo de Manila University’s European Studies Program said Filipino migrants may be imperiled if the UK is plunged into a recession by a decision to withdraw from the EU. The UK is home to more than 200,000 Filipinos.

"The Philippines sends migrants to the UK. In addition, we receive remittances from the UK," Enverga said in an interview with CNN Philippines. "If the workers are sent away or it becomes more difficult for us to send people there, it will affect our economy greatly."

Enverga said the cultural and political influence of Britain in the Philippines and other countries outside the EU may also be affected.

"The leverage that the UK can have over global politics may be impeded. It does have alliance systems in place but these are contingent on whether or not it stays in the European Union," Enverga said.

But Enverga believes the consequences of a vote to exit from the EU may come gradually, and not "overnight."

"These will actually occur in the long run and so we shouldn’t expect to see major changes right away but it will come," he said.

Related: Why you should care about the Brexit vote

Global impact

For Enverga, UK's economic and political "leverage" will diminish if it decides to leave the EU, considered by economists as one of the world's strongest unions.

"The European Union is one of the largest aid donors in the world. It's one of the largest markets in the world and it’s also one of the largest investors in the world," Enverga said. "And so it will weaken this economic super power and as such that will have cascading effects throughout the entire world."

The United States, another powerful economy, has been vying for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU – something that the UK may lose if it decides to depart from the bloc.

Also read: The facts about Brexit and immigration

"That would make up a third or a half of the entire economic GDP of the world, if that trade agreement were to pass, and the UK leaving that would weaken both the agreement and itself," Enverga said.

"Some time in the future there may come a scenario in which (the U.S.) would have to choose between the UK and the EU and in that kind of situation, it’s a lose-lose situation in the end."

CNN Philippines intern Gino Gerodias contributed to this report.