Businesses not facing an immigration ‘cliff edge’ post Brexit


February 14, 2017

A sharp drop after Brexit in the number of Eastern European workers who are already here is unlikely and does not justify business demands for continued large inflows of low skilled workers.

That is the conclusion of a paper released by Migration Watch UK today.

The evidence suggests that there is little need for continued immigration from Eastern Europe to maintain the current population of EU10 workers because the East European population in the UK has been very settled.

Indeed, this first analysis of the stock of EU10 migrants by year of arrival reveals that their numbers appear to be increasing rather than decreasing. This must mean that few long-term EU10 migrants have left the country and that, actually, some who thought they would only stay for a short period have in fact stayed for much longer.

The House of Commons has just voted to ensure that the existing rights of EU citizens will not be changed after Brexit without a further vote in Parliament. This makes it all the more likely that EU migrants already living in the UK will have their status protected. 

Businesses should not, therefore, need to worry about a sudden departure of their current staff of EU nationals. Post Brexit changes to the immigration system are likely to be designed to cut out migration for low skilled work. 70% of East European migrants are in low skilled jobs but businesses should have plenty of time to adapt their business models.

As for EU14 migrants, those who have arrived since 2010 have largely stayed on although some of those who arrived earlier have left. However, in contrast to workers from Eastern Europe, 70% of EU14 workers are in skilled work. There is bound to be a route for skilled EU workers, perhaps on the lines of the present system for skilled non-EU workers, so employers will be able to replace any who might leave.

Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Vice Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:

“Employers will not face a “cliff edge” over their workers from the EU. In the past ten years, very many migrants from Eastern Europe in low-skilled work seem to have stayed on so there is no sign that continued large inflows are needed to maintain the present number available for work. Cutting out this aspect of migration in future should reduce net migration by about 100,000 a year.  This would be a major step forward in the government’s efforts to reduce immigration.”

Note to editors:

The Research Paper 'Migration Watch UK, The UK Labour Market: EU workers by occupation skill level, May 2015' explains the great difference in skill levels between EU 14 and A10 (East European) migrants to the UK.  

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