Brexit: More than half of skilled EU workers in UK say they are going to leave

Healthcare, technology, media, telecoms and financial services sectors will be the worst hit, according to survey

Ben Chapman
Wednesday 14 June 2017 19:15 BST
A total of 84 per cent of skilled EU healthcare workers said they will go
A total of 84 per cent of skilled EU healthcare workers said they will go (Getty)

The majority of skilled EU workers at the largest UK companies say they are likely to leave the country before Brexit even happens, exacerbating fears of a severe brain drain.

A survey of EU nationals employed at FTSE 250 companies showed that 56 per cent said they were “highly likely” or “quite likely” to leave the UK before the conclusion of the Brexit talks.

Healthcare will be the hardest hit, with 84 per cent of employees in the sector saying they would leave. Technology, media, telecoms and financial services will also see big losses of talent, according to the survey.

The survey found 42 per cent of skilled EU workers had already taken action to change their immigration status since last year’s Brexit vote. A further 40 per cent confirmed they intended to do so in future.

Law firm Baker McKenzie surveyed 250 EU citizens educated at degree level or higher.

The findings of the survey will pile further pressure on Theresa May to soften her stance on immigration in order to ensure UK firms have access to skilled workers.

Ms May had initially stuck to a rigid line of decreasing net migration to the tens of thousands from the hundreds of thousands.

Stephen Ratcliffe, employment partner at Baker McKenzie, warned companies could face a “significant skills shortage” in the near future and said the situation could worsen if there were any delays to the Brexit talks.

The talks have yet to get underway and have been thrown into turmoil by the UK’s hung parliament, which will see the Prime Minister enter the negotiation room without the strong hand she had envisaged prior to the General Election.

The survey also found that 70 per cent of EU staff felt more exposed to discrimination since the Brexit vote, with 38 per cent of those describing themselves as feeling “vulnerable” or “very vulnerable”.

More than a quarter of respondents said they feared losing their job, with discriminatory hiring practices being the most-cited reason for their concern. More than half said they had not been offered any support by their employers with regard to Brexit.

Mr Ratcliffe added: “Last week’s election result and the current uncertainty around the immigration status of EU nationals, underlines the need for all employers – especially those reliant on EU workers – to address their employees’ concerns around Brexit as a priority.

“Failure to do so could result in a significant skills drain for businesses in the near term, regardless of the Brexit deal reached.”

The survey comes as the Government finds itself under increased pressure to guarantee the residence rights of EU citizens already living in the UK.

The NHS is under particular threat, according to another study released earlier this week by the Nursing & Midwifery Council, which showed a 96 per cent drop in the number of EU nurses registering to work in the UK following the Brexit vote.

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