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Ticking timebomb as business waits on guarantees for EU workers

Mark Hilton, Skills Director, London First

Without EU nationals coming to the UK to fill jobs over the last ten years or so, London’s growth would have stalled.  It is unlikely that we would be the global power house that we are today.

These valuable EU citizens have made the UK their home, working shoulder to shoulder with British born workers and those from further afield, all contributing to the UK, adding value.  In fact, all of London’s migrant workers generate between them an incremental tax revenue of £30bn p.a., 5% of total Government tax receipts for the whole of the UK. This effectively pays for the cost of the UK’s police, prison, legal and fire services each year.

Yet, all this is being put at risk.  The start of the EU Summit brought a new round of ‘assurances’ for EU nationals in the UK, that were less than reassuring.

The government’s dithering on the rights of EU nationals already in the UK comes at a high price, and enough is enough.  Business is dealing with concerned workers day in day out who are worried about their job security.  Business is also hamstrung on whether they should hire new EU workers during this intense period of uncertainty.  It’s no wonder that our members, who between them employ over 1 million people, are telling us that their EU colleagues are packing their bags and going home.  It’s no wonder that fewer applications from EU citizens are coming in.  And the official figures bear this out.

Double the number of EU citizens left the UK over the last year than the year before.  Fewer are coming.  Research we undertook with Deloitte for our Skills Commission shows that 64% of high skilled EU millienials working in London are seriously considering leaving in the next 5 years.  How will this help the skills shortages that already exist?

This paints a bleak picture.  But it can end now.

We have been calling for the government since last year to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU citizens working here and take them off the negotiation table.  The Prime Minster should be bold and do the right thing.

What does this mean in practice? In London First’s immigration model we want EU nationals already living, working and studying in the UK or who arrive before the point of Brexit (March 2019) to remain with no change to their status. EU nationals in the UK at the point of Brexit should be offered indefinite leave to remain for a transitional period of five years. If they do not take up this offer, they can remain as long as they are in employment or study or, for up to three months, looking for work.

This is a fair deal.  And bureaucracy or cost barriers should not get in the way of this.  The switch to settled status should be frictionless and pain free.

The goodwill that this will create in Europe will be sizeable.  The sigh of relief from our European colleagues at work will be deafening.

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