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Brexit: the future
of immigration in London

Brexit: the future of immigration in London

Published: 31st July 2019
Area: Corporate & Commercial
Author: Tijen Ahmet

From the need for more affordable housing to improving transportation, the introduction of the new skills agenda to the Apprenticeship Levy, there are a plethora of key issues affecting London and its workers.

Our employment partner, Jon Heuvel had the chance to discuss these topics and more at an exclusive ‘In Conversation’ event this week with London Mayor Sadiq Khan. At the heart of this conversation was a topic that has been in the spotlight since the EU referendum: the post-Brexit future of our immigration system and its impact on the capital.

There is no doubt that immigration is integral to the success of London and its global competitiveness. With a third of EU nationals living in the UK directly based in London – approximately 1.2 million people – it is clear that the population of the capital will be more vulnerable than the rest of the UK in the face of changing immigration restrictions. The flexibility and diversity that makes this workforce so distinct means that it has a greater potential to lose skilled people to overseas locations relatively easily.

It is also clear that Brexit is already having an impact on the UK’s workforce. Our recent research revealed that 33% of businesses surveyed had already experienced a decrease in the number of workers coming to the UK since the EU referendum vote. With more than a quarter yet to analyse the impact that immigration changes will have on their recruitment strategies in the future, businesses are not prepared for a new era of reduced migration.

These concerns were a key theme running throughout the event, with widespread demand from many delegates for the Government to protect this uniqueness of London’s workforce and safeguard its future when considering plans for life post-Brexit. There were calls for the Government to recognise the positive impact immigration has on London and the UK to ensure that we can continue to attract the brightest and talented from Europe and beyond to our “vibrant global City”.

Recent research by City Hall has identified that key sectors including construction, social care and hospitality that account for approximately half of all jobs in London will struggle to fill posts under the government proposals, as outlined in the immigration White Paper. This is primarily because jobs regarded as ‘low-skilled’ and paid under £30,000, under the government’s future plans, will be prevented from being filled from abroad.

In light of these growing concerns, during the event Sadiq Khan called for the Government to:

Lower the current £30,000 skilled salary threshold to £21,000

Give London more ‘flexibility and control’ to attract the talent needed in the capital

Introduce a London specific Shortage Occupation List to fast track visas to jobs with the skills required

Consider a new freelance visa to London

Whilst only time will tell on whether the Government’s proposals will change under growing pressure, or if a deal will even be secured, it is clear that businesses in London and beyond need to prepare now for a new era of reduced migration.

Proactivity is key to minimising disruption, and protecting EU workers in the UK, as well as creating methods for plugging skills gaps, is vital in this. Read more from our immigration expert on how to future-proof your recruitment.

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