Employers Unprepared For Post-Brexit Immigration

A leading think tank has found that UK employers have unrealistic expectations of what the UK immigration system might look like post-Brexit.

Research undertaken by The Resolution Foundation revealed that almost a third of employers expect that free movement for EU nationals will continue, so long as they have a job offer. A further 17% expected no change at all to the current system after the UK leaves the EU.

The Conservatives’ election manifesto once again upheld the party’s commitment to reducing net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’, despite widespread criticism from many who have labelled the figure ‘arbitrary’.

Despite the Conservative pledge, 46% of just over 500 businesses surveyed by ComRes earlier this year do not foresee any change to the number of EU nationals they employ over the next 12 months. Indeed, approximately a quarter expect to increase the number of migrant workers they employ.

Last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a fall of 84,000 in net migration to 248,000 for 2016. The last time net migration was below 250,000 was in the year to March 2014.

As Brexit negotiations get underway this week, Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation, believes it is not just the government that needs to “step up preparation for Brexit”.

He said: “Many British firms are totally unprepared for this change, particularly when it comes to migration.  Ministers have compounded this uncertainty by choosing not to answer questions over what a post-Brexit immigration regime might be.”

He added: “Whatever people’s views on Brexit, the journey not just the destination matter hugely to growth, jobs and living standards. Now is the time for both firms and government to focus on how we navigate that journey and the changes to our labour market it brings.”

Stephen Clarke, Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, highlighted what he described as “a stark gap between what businesses want and expect from our post-Brexit immigration system, and what the government has pledged to deliver.”

Pointing to sectors that rely heavily on migrant labour, such as agriculture, food manufacturing, hospitality and construction, he said: “In these sectors business models may need to be rethought, new temporary worker systems navigated or failing that operations closed or moved abroad.”

The Resolution Foundation firmly believes that the government needs to listen to businesses, clarifying well in advance of Brexit exactly what they need to do to start preparing for a new immigration system, and giving them time to change how or what they produce.

A failure to do, the think tank points out, could be detrimental to productivity and prospects for future pay and jobs growth.



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