Brexit Labour Drain? – 30 March 2018

Brexit Labour Drain? – 30 March 2018

We are told (amongst other things) that the answer to the question “Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?” meant that Britons were voting to curtail immigration to the UK from the EU (if not the rest of the world). This is strange as it is not a conclusion that can be derived from a binary choice and not all people choosing to leave would have the same motivations for their vote. In any event, the government took the vote to mean that freedom of movement to the UK from the EU must end when the UK leaves the bloc. Of course, such a position precludes full membership of the single market which all sides implied should continue irrespective of the outcome of the poll.

As the UK passes the one-year mark from the date that it leaves the bloc, the ramifications of the vote are becoming clearer in the minds of businesses, politicians and sectors of the public. One concern being raised by employers is that a future migration policy may curtail their ability to recruit sufficient staff from across the EU – a reasonable concern in the circumstances! The Migration Advisor Committee report, commissioned by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, suggests that EU workers are more reliable and eager than their UK counterparts (in certain industries and roles) and willing to work longer and more anti-social hours than their UK competitors, based on anecdotal evidence.

The report found that established EU migrants from established EU Member states (prior to expansion) earned 12% more than their UK counterparts, but those from newer accession states made 27% less. The report rejected claims that UK employers would be unable to recruit UK staff if they increased wages, however. It found no evidence that firms gave preference to migrant workers over British applicants, but sought to find “best fit” recruits. Whilst the report concluded that lower migration will reduce UK growth, it drew no clear conclusion on the effect this would have on living standards.

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