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The Great British brain drain: is the UK set to lose talented workers following Brexit?

The Guardian published an article in July discussing the betrayal felt by EEA Nationals, following the Brexit referendum.
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Other European countries have already suffered a "brain drain" when their youth started to leave due to a lack of job opportunities. It is likely that the UK will ultimately suffer the same due to the loss of EEA free movement of workers. EEA workers may start to leave as they believe the UK to be hostile towards them. Many EEA nationals are already planning to exit the UK to return to other EEA member states, whilst Brits are also leaving the UK as an attempt to keep options open for their families by securing passports issued by other EEA states. Further, there are many Britons married to EEA nationals, which may result in entire families having to leave the UK.
Other European countries have already suffered a "brain drain" when their youth started to leave due to a lack of job opportunities. It is likely that the UK will ultimately suffer the same due to the loss of EEA free movement of workers. EEA workers may start to leave as they believe the UK to be hostile towards them. Many EEA nationals are already planning to exit the UK to return to other EEA member states, whilst Brits are also leaving the UK as an attempt to keep options open for their families by securing passports issued by other EEA states. Further, there are many Britons married to EEA nationals, which may result in entire families having to leave the UK.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 117,000 EU nationals left the UK in 2016, the year of the referendum, up 31,000 from 2015.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 117,000 EU nationals left the UK in 2016, the year of the referendum, up 31,000 from 2015.
It is worth considering that many EEA nationals came to the UK to study Bachelor or Masters Degrees and have subsequently worked and contributed to the UK economy. Such EEA nationals who have been educated in the UK often do highly skilled jobs, and would take all of the training which they have received in the UK to other strong EEA economies.
It is worth considering that many EEA nationals came to the UK to study Bachelor or Masters Degrees and have subsequently worked and contributed to the UK economy. Such EEA nationals who have been educated in the UK often do highly skilled jobs, and would take all of the training which they have received in the UK to other strong EEA economies.
The sectors with the highest numbers of EEA workers in the UK include retail, food services, education, health services and manufacturing of food. Some of the EEA nationals who will be leaving the UK will be medical professionals and teachers who won't be easily replaced, but also workers in hospitality. Critically, the UK has a list of occupations that are categorised as shortage occupations for which the Home Office imposes lighter immigration controls to try and attract migrants from abroad to do these jobs. Medical practitioners, health professionals, nurses, and secondary education teaching professionals have historically always featured prominently on this list. If we don't have the EEA labour force coming in from outside the UK to do such jobs, shortage occupations will be exacerbated.
The sectors with the highest numbers of EEA workers in the UK include retail, food services, education, health services and manufacturing of food. Some of the EEA nationals who will be leaving the UK will be medical professionals and teachers who won't be easily replaced, but also workers in hospitality. Critically, the UK has a list of occupations that are categorised as shortage occupations for which the Home Office imposes lighter immigration controls to try and attract migrants from abroad to do these jobs. Medical practitioners, health professionals, nurses, and secondary education teaching professionals have historically always featured prominently on this list. If we don't have the EEA labour force coming in from outside the UK to do such jobs, shortage occupations will be exacerbated.
The most tangible long-term issue will be when international businesses start to leave the UK as they eventually will not be able to benefit from free movement of goods and services. We have already seen international businesses such as HSBC and UBS declaring to move jobs and business operations to other EEA member states, taking with this, tax revenue, income tax revenue, jobs and investment.
The most tangible long-term issue will be when international businesses start to leave the UK as they eventually will not be able to benefit from free movement of goods and services. We have already seen international businesses such as HSBC and UBS declaring to move jobs and business operations to other EEA member states, taking with this, tax revenue, income tax revenue, jobs and investment.
The only way for the UK to ensure that we don't lose entire swathes of labour and talented individuals, is to continue to ensure that the country is welcoming for outside talent and investment. An encouraging place to start would be for the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to finally provide a solid guarantee to EEA migrants that they will be able to stay in the UK post-Brexit.
The only way for the UK to ensure that we don't lose entire swathes of labour and talented individuals, is to continue to ensure that the country is welcoming for outside talent and investment. An encouraging place to start would be for the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to finally provide a solid guarantee to EEA migrants that they will be able to stay in the UK post-Brexit.
Sassa Karakatsianis, Immigration Specialist
Sassa Karakatsianis, Immigration Specialist
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