Brexit and the Labour Market Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

“In the last decade or so, we have seen record levels of long-term net migration in the UK, and that sheer volume has given rise to public concern about pressure on public services, like schools and our infrastructure, especially housing, as well as placing downward pressure on wages for people on the lowest incomes. The public must have confidence in our ability to control immigration.”5

1.Following Britain’s exit from the European Union, controls are expected to be imposed on immigration from countries inside the EU’s single market.6

2.Membership of the EU has allowed the British economy to use European workers with few restrictions.7 Employers told us that this system made the employment of EU nationals straightforward.8

3.In contrast, most non-EU migrants entering the UK to work do so on a work visa (Figure 3 provides a summary of the tiered system of visas). It imposes bureaucratic and financial requirements on employers who described the system to us as “complex”, “onerous”, “expensive”, “bureaucratic”, “adding unnecessary time”, and “a massive pain in the backside”.9

4.Many businesses told us they rely on migrant workers and there was uncertainty over the extent to which a new immigration policy would take account of this. This report aims to identify positive measures the Government and industry can take in the short and medium term to adapt a reduction in EU migrant workers.

5.This report is structured as follows:

5 HM Government, The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union, Cm 9417, February 2017: [accessed 12 July 2017]

6 People from non-EU countries in the European Economic Area (Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) have the same rights to live and work in the UK as EU nationals because EEA membership allows those countries to be part of the single market. Switzerland is not in the EU or EEA but is part of the single market so its nationals also have these rights. When we use the term ‘EU’ in this report in the context of the free movement of people, we will be referring to all those countries whose citizens have the right to live and work in the UK through membership of the EU’s single market.

7 See Appendix 4 for more detail on the current system.

8 Written evidence from the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (LMT0031); see also written evidence from the Institute of Directors (LMT0012); Q 39 (Tim Thomas) and Q 48 (Andrea Wareham)

9 Written evidence from the University of Cambridge (LMT0001); written evidence from Squire Patton Boggs LLP (LMT0034); written evidence from EEF (LMT0019); written evidence from UCEA (LMT0016); National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Employers’ responses to Brexit: The perspective of employers in low skilled sectors, August 2016: [accessed 12 July 2017]

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