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Navigating Brexit: The Migration Minefield

Today, EEF and Squire Patton Boggs have published a new report – Navigating Brexit: The Migration Minefield.

Our report, based on a survey of manufacturing employers, finds that manufacturers are concerned about accessing the skills post-Brexit, fuelled by recent trends showing an increase in the number of EU citizens leaving the UK since the referendum and a drop in the number of applications received from EU citizens.

However, manufacturers are not sitting around waiting for the skills crisis in our industry to worsen to. They are very much upping their investment in skills as the formal Brexit exit date approaches.

Here’s a little look at what they’re doing in a bit more detail and why.

The immediate #EUReferendum effect may have abated for now

National trends show the #EUReferendum has had an impact on the number of EU citizens coming to the UK looking for work:


EEF’s own research from last year, together with our evidence from this year suggests that some employers have experienced a dip in applications from EU citizens since the referendum.


That said, the fall this year is not as concerning as last year, suggesting that the initial EU referendum effect may have abated for now. This may be driven by the more positive rhetoric we have heard recently including the Prime Minister’s letter sent to all EU citizens living in the UK, information including the cost of acquiring settled status as well as the Article 50 Agreement.

No time for complacency as companies remain concerned about access to skills post-Brexit

We must not however become complacent. Certainty remains key. Any renewed sense of uncertainty during continuing negotiations could see these trends take a U-turn once more.

And let’s remember that when it comes to the post December 2020 EU migration system there remains radio silence from Government. The Home Office White Paper is expected shortly, and we know that the Migration Advisory Committee will publish their report in Autumn, but until then it’s a guessing game.

It’s unsurprising then that almost half of manufacturers are concerned about access to skills post-Brexit, and this figure increases when looking at those companies employing EU nationals.





The good news: manufacturers are upping their investment in skills

Manufacturers aren’t sitting around twiddling their thumbs. With an already yawning skills gap, manufacturers are taking steps to ensure they are making major investments in skills, not only in new recruits but existing staff. They are attracting, retaining and retraining people and even reviewing future investment decisions.


Having a solid skills based in the UK is fundamental to attracting and retaining manufacturing bases in the UK. What our survey also found is that companies aren’t generally looking to relocate some, or part of their manufacturing sites outside of the UK. That said, we cannot ignore the almost one in five (18%) of companies considering this, or already implementing this. We must ensure that manufacturers are confident in their ability to find the right people with the right skills.

A strong domestic skills policy must go hand-in-hand with a future, employer and skills led migration system

Securing a future EU migration system that delivers the skills businesses need now and in the future is fundamental and we will be blogging in detail about this later this week.

However, we also know that domestic policy places a crucial role. Government must develop a robust education and skills policy and landscape that delivers the skills manufacturers needs and supports the UK’s industrial strategy. That's why in our report today, we also remind Government of the steps it needs to take on the domestic side too.