It is estimated that one in six workers currently working in London are EU nationals, as reported by new research intending to underline how vulnerable London actually is in light of the immigration restrictions due after Brexit.
Some 190,000 EU nationals are employed in London’s financial, professional and business services sectors, which together are the biggest employers of EU nationals in the capital. One third of workers in the construction industry are EU nationals, making this sector particularly vulnerable to the upcoming immigration regulations and restrictions. Finally more than of a fifth of workers in the retail and hospitality industry sectors are from the EU.
The UK government has revealed part of strategy relating to the status of EU nationals and how they will be able to remain in the UK and wants parity for British citizens living in the EU. So far the EU has not indicated whether British citizens will have the right to remain in the EU and retain all their present advantages. The British abroad and the EU nationals in the UK have become bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations.
So far it has been announced by the British Government that EU citizens have already settled in the UK for five years will have to apply for residence status, with the reassurance that those EU citizens will be allowed to remain permanently. The Prime Minister has, however, refused to adjust her immigration target, currently set at 100,000 per year.
It is undeniable that London heavily relies on foreign workers in some industries, and the limited number of immigrants proposed to be permitted entry may have an adverse effect on British business. The uncertainty of Brexit has, understandably, resulted in EU nationals already leaving the UK, thus causing a potential harm to both the high and low-skilled City professions. Outside of London, EU nationals account for 7% of the work force. The impact of any immigration restrictions will therefore be felt throughout the country.
It would be naïve to assume that unemployed British workers would be able to step into the roles that may emerge if the European workforce is restricted. The expertise required in some cases is extremely technical and cannot be summoned up quite so easily. The fall-out from the Brexit immigration predicament may lead to British companies losing ground on the global stage as expertise slips away.
Businesses, British or otherwise, that rely on incoming expertise would be wise to plan and train their workforce for potential changes over the next two years to ensure that they do not find themselves in an uncompetitive position due to lack of know-how and skills. Once a firm gains a reputation that suggests that they cannot fully address their clients’ needs it is extremely damaging and reversal of that perception can take a very considerable time.
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