According to new research(£) carried out for the Financial Times by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, more than three-quarters of EU citizens currently working in certain industries and sectors in the UK under free movement provisions would not meet the current visa requirements post Brexit.
Although there are still many unknowns and the law would be likely to change following a Leave vote in June, the research will send shockwaves through certain sectors of the UK economy. In total, the study suggests that there are almost 2.2million EU workers in the UK.
Up to 94 per cent of EU workers in the hospitality sector would fail the current test, potentially leaving a hole in the workforce of around 442,000 employees (approximately 8% of the 5.7million restaurant and hotel workers in the UK).
The figure rises to 96 per cent of workers on British farms who have originated other EU member states, with other sectors including manufacturing – where EU workers make up 10 per cent of the workforce) and construction set to suffer significant difficulties where British workers are hard to come by.
Although the rights of existing workers already resident in the UK are unlikely to be affected, the turnover of employees in some sectors will mean that there may be short supply unless immigration rules are relaxed. Immigration will still be necessary for many British businesses to survive, let alone grow.
Even in professional services, including the banking and finance sector, the research suggests that two-thirds of EU workers not meeting the current visa requirements. The study reports that this is around 360,000 people or 6.8 per cent of the sector as a whole.
Businesses that are continuing to recruit from the EU and reliant on the Treaty provisions for the free movement of workers will need to start considering what a post-Brexit plan might look like. Although there is unlikely to be any immediate impact, new business models may become necessary, especially in labour intensive industries where British workers are unable to fill the places necessary.
If you would like to discuss how Brexit may impact on your business, please get in touch.
The full report, together with infographics and detailed analysis is available on the FT website here.