Brexit has resulted in the loss of 330,000 workers from the UK economy, according to new research published on Tuesday (17 January).
The data published by the UK in a Changing Europe and Centre for European Reform thinktanks revealed that in September 2022, there were 460,000 fewer workers of EU-origin in the UK than if the UK had remained in the bloc, only partially offset by an increase of about 130,000 non-EU workers. The net loss of workers amounts to around 1% of the labour force.
“Our analysis suggests that, although migration overall is currently running at least at pre-pandemic levels, the post-Brexit migration system has produced, as designed, a clear break with pre-Brexit trends, reducing labour supply for some sectors,” said Professor Jonathan Portes and John Springford.
“In lower-skilled sectors, work-related migration under free movement does not appear to have been replaced by additional visa issuance under the new system,” they added.
The end of freedom of movement, one of the main outcomes of the UK’s exit from the EU and single market, has radically changed migration patterns to the UK.
The number of EU citizens in the UK has fallen dramatically. Around 43,000 EU citizens received visas for work, family or study in 2021, compared to the annual figure of between 230,000 and 430,000 in each of the six years before it left the EU, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics.
However, immigration from non-work-related routes has increased – net migration to the UK was estimated at over 500,000 in the year to June 2022 – with big inflows of refugees from Ukraine, Hong Kong, and of students.
The new immigration requirements introduced by Boris Johnson’s government put in place a points-based system and a high minimum income requirement, Roughly half the jobs in the UK labour market are open to those coming from abroad if they have a qualifying job offer.
But that has still resulted in significant shortfalls in EU-origin workers in several sectors, including transportation and storage, wholesale and retail, accommodation and food, manufacturing, construction, and administration.
In recent months, meanwhile, shortages of nurses and social care workers have prompted the UK government to seek bilateral agreements with non-EU countries to increase the number of workers from countries on the World Health Organisation’s support and safeguard list, or “red list”, countries which have shortages of nurses and doctors themselves.
The points-based system has proved far more generous than initially thought, prompting criticism from some Conservative lawmakers and pro-Brexit commentators that the government has failed to cut economic migrant numbers as was promised during the 2016 referendum campaign that saw Britons narrowly vote in favour of leaving the EU.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]