Brexit: Bitesize - Will Governments pledge on EU workers be enough to stem the Brexit exit?

22 February 2018

Our employment solicitor Tom Martin restarts our 'Brexit - Bitesize' series talking about the availability of EU labour.

Workers from the EU may still look to exit the UK pre and post-Brexit despite recent reassurances from the Government, a legal employment specialist has warned.

Tom Martin, a solicitor with the employment team at the region’s largest law firm, Wilkin Chapman solicitors, highlights how an increasing number of firms are seeing a labour shortage despite new transitional policies being issued by the Government.

Assessing the impact of Brexit negotiations on UK employment law, Mr Martin singles out the availability of EU labour as the one of the major concerns.

“Much of UK employment law seems unlikely to change following Brexit. However, there is one key area where it looks to be having a significant impact – and that is the availability of EU labour,” he said.

In a new Brexit briefing document for the agricultural sector, released last week, Environment Secretary Michael Gove pledged the Government’s commitment to seeking a ‘flexible migration policy overall and post-Brexit’ to ensure ‘access to seasonal agricultural labour’.

This follows the Government’s preparation of ‘transitional Brexit provisions’, which look set to allow flexibility of movement at least in the short term, explained Mr Martin.

“It now seems apparent that as part of these transitional Brexit provisions, any EU national who currently resides in the UK or arrives pre-29 March 2019 (the official leave date), will have little problem obtaining permission to stay either temporarily or permanently. Therefore, any current EU workers should be able to continue in their employment,” he said.

“In the longer term however, it seems as though businesses will likely have reduced access to EU workers, with potentially tighter immigration controls coming into force after leaving the EU.

“These will take effect after an ‘implementation period’, during which the intention is that EU citizens will continue to be allowed to stay and work in the UK. How long this period is, and what the new immigration controls will look like, are unclear,” Mr Martin continued.

“Despite these promises and agreements, it is likely that many EU workers will start looking elsewhere following Brexit. Already companies are seeing a shortage. As such, notwithstanding assurances from the Government that nothing needs to be done now and that discussions will continue, companies may in the long term have to look closer to home to fill the void left by EU workers,” he added.

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