Taking stock: Where we are on the road to BrexitMarch 28, 2018
Natasha Ryan, Brexit Campaigns Manager
Sophia Wolpers, Brexit Policy Officer
A year ago today, Theresa May notified the European Council of her intention to withdraw the UK from the European Union. With one year to go until the UK’s formal exit, and three years until the benefits of EU membership end in the UK, it is vital that the government gets our post-Brexit relationships right. We take a look at what’s been achieved over the past 12 months, and what government must deliver to keep London globally competitive and working for the whole of the UK.
Access to talent and securing the rights of our EU colleagues
Since the referendum, businesses’ single, highest priority has been continued access to talent.
We know that staff turnover has increased since the decision to leave the EU and many businesses struggling to find the right people say the biggest single reason is a reduction in applications from EU talent.
London First has unwaveringly proven the contribution our EU colleagues make and the importance of guaranteeing their rights.
We called on the government to stop using EU citizens as a bargaining chip in the negotiations. Regrettably the government kept this issue in play far longer than it should have done, but our efforts paid off as the rights of EU citizens’ living and working in the UK will remain unchanged, and for those arriving during the transition period also. The Government must now stick to their guarantee.
Agreeing a transition period
We were delighted to see that government listened to our calls for a transition deal to be agreed early this year. Working with Lloyds Banking Group we consulted business on a national level who agreed a deal needed to be in place for the first half of 2018 to help unlock jobs and investment. However, as welcome as the transition deal is, it’s still not a long-term solution – business needs to be able to plan for what the relationship will look after Brexit. There is a fear that this deal is simply kicking the can down the road, not enabling any long-term business planning.
What’s left to do
Immigration that works
The Migration Advisory Committee published its interim report on EU workers this week, recognising the contribution they make and employers concerns about the current non-EEA system.
We’ve shared the facts on London’s migration in our report Facing Facts, showing that people who come to the UK to work contribute £46,000 net in GVA each year to the London economy. The first of its kind, the analysis showed that the additional GVA created by 10 foreign nationals supports an additional four jobs. It was warmly welcomed by the Home Office.
We have also set out what the UK’s future immigration policy should look like. With input from London’s leading employers and the national business groups, we are proposing three key routes into the UK post-Brexit; a minimum salary threshold, identified shortage skills and a route for exceptional talent. Combined with an effective system reducing unnecessary administrative costs, and the robust checks and balances the UK needs to restore public confidence in immigration, this new approach could deliver a fair and managed immigration system that works for the UK.
It is vital that the government addresses ongoing uncertainty and publishes its much-anticipated immigration White Paper, designing post-Brexit immigration.
Welcoming international students
We have been calling for years for international students to be taken out of the net migration target. Following rumours of movement on this issue early this year, we continued to demonstrate the cross-sector and cross-party support for our position. We were recently joined by Vince Cable MP, Jonathan Bartley MP, Tulip Siddiq MP, unions, students, universities and business in this call.
We will apply further pressure over the coming months as the Migration Advisory Committee reports on its government commission on international students.
Addressing the skills gap
To ensure London’s skills system can effectively address London’s skills gaps, likely to be made worse by Brexit, we launched the London Employment and Skills Commission. Right now, our Employment and Skills Action Plan for London is out for consultation and the final report will be published in June. But it’s already clear that business and government must work together to ensure our country’s education and skills system provides the skills that businesses need now and in the future.
One year to go
As we prepare to exit the EU, we need to ensure the whole UK economy is meeting the challenge of raising our productivity. Over the last few months we’ve been working with business organisations and stakeholders across the country to see how we might unlock the UK economy’s full potential. While London sets the pace, other cities and regions have core strengths in internationally competitive sectors on which to build. Unlocking these opportunities means more transport investment to improve connectivity between our cities; devolution of powers, funding streams to local economies and better collaboration between the cities and regions of the UK. Our position paper, Growing Together, will be published in April and will set out a vision for stronger partnerships and a shared agenda for growth. Watch this space.
As we look ahead, we will be pushing the government to stick to what has been agreed so far, in particular on EU citizens’ rights and on the transition period, and will continue to make it clear that business needs to be able to plan post December 2020
We will keep pushing for international students to be taken out of the net migration target and we will continue to argue for an immigration and skills system that works for London and all of the country.
Most importantly, we will continue to call for a final deal that protects London’s access to talent, and frictionless trade, for the benefit of all the UK.
Natasha Ryan, Brexit Campaigns Manager and Sophia Wolpers, Brexit Policy Officer