Assessing the Current Situation of EU Migrant Workers

The announcement last week by Home Secretary Amber Rudd that the government will now launch a major assessment of migration from the EU is news that has been welcomed by many.

It is vital for the majority of businesses to have an independent view on what future immigration policies should look like as soon as possible. However, with the report not due to be published until September 2018, this does raise a new question as to why this will be released two years after the EU referendum took place and not before voting began?

The referendum was heavily centred on the subject of immigration and many of our clients are now questioning how the government was able to debate the referendum without understanding the basic demographics and sectoral make-up of the 3.2 million EU nationals already working in the United Kingdom.

What will the Assessment Look Into?

The report is solely focused on immigration within the following areas:

  • The current patterns of European Economic Area (EEA) migration.
  • The economic and social costs and benefits of EU migration to the UK economy.
  • The potential impact of a reduction in EU migration and the ways in which both business and the Government could adjust to this change.
  • The current impact of immigration, from both EU and non-EU countries, on the competitiveness of UK industry and skills and training.
  • Whether there is any evidence that the availability of unskilled labour has led to low UK investment in certain sectors.
  • If there are advantages to focusing migrant labour on high-skilled jobs.

However, the report doesn’t cover the potential impact of emigration which has been on the increase since the referendum result was announced. Multi-national law firm Baker McKenzie conducted a recent survey, and among the EU employees surveyed 56% are currently considering leaving the UK, (the number is even higher within the NHS with 84% of EU nationals are currently considering leaving the UK).

The report also centres on public and private sector employer requirements regarding workforce. Currently almost 50% of all EU economic migrants are travelling to the United Kingdom having already secured a job.

This is still only half of the full picture. A number of EU migrants are not coming to this country because of the job vacancies alone but for the overall outlook of prosperity, with better opportunities of working within the UK. For many multi-national employers, the United Kingdom is an ideal gateway to the European Union. Many of these companies can draw on a much more diverse European workforce compared to a number of the UK’s European counterparts. For many young people across Europe, the UK provides an attractive career opportunity. Currently, it is equally as beneficial for younger European workers to secure a job in a UK city as it is to accept a job in Madrid or Rome.

With strict visa regulations aimed to reduce number of net migration to the 10s of thousands and policy of hostile environment as introduced by Theresa May as Home Secretary it is questionable though whether the employment needs as identified in the upcoming assessment will be matched with enough applicants willing to make the move from the EU into the UK where their status will be questioned on a permanent basis.

Regarding the situation of the 3.2 million EU nationals currently in the UK we know that the report will be published far too late to have any impact on the ongoing EU negotiations on our citizens’ rights, which are meant to be concluded later this year.

Currently the UK is negotiating without a full understanding of what benefits EU nationals living in the UK are bringing. There is growing uncertainty among our clients and we have many commenting that this new report will not help to reduce this worry due to the UK negotiating with limited information. At present, there is no official advice as to how we convince the EU migrants currently working in the UK not to leave their current employers.