What happens to EU workers after Brexit?

The UK government has promised that once the UK leaves the EU, they will not begin to deport EU nationals. Nor will the end of the free movement of people mean that any EU national who wishes to remain in the UK cannot, assuming that they meet certain criteria.

Any EU worker who wishes to remain in the UK can do so, providing they can prove their identity with official documentation, prove that they do not have criminal convictions, and prove their residency within the UK. Once these are approved, the settled status will be approved.

This scheme, which is approved by the Government and ready to be rolled out upon leaving the EU, will be compulsory for all EU citizens living in the UK, which is approximately 3.8 million people. Applications will cost £65 for adults and half of that for children, and would allow for people to continue living, and working, in the UK indefinitely.

Who will remain?

It’s very difficult to calculate the numbers of people who will take the government up on this scheme, although the government expects that 3.5 million of the 3.8 million EU citizens living here will apply. This means that the government expects Brexit to only cause less than 10% of EU citizens to return home.

And those who leave?

Since the government does not provide a breakdown of which nationalities they expect to remain and those they expect to leave, it is a challenge to suggest the scale of the impacts to EU countries who will experience returning citizens. If we assumed that all 300,000 people expected by the government to leave all belonged to the same country, for example, Poland, then the huge influx of workers into Poland would bring difficulties to their labour market. However, it is far more reasonable to assume that there would be an even distribution of migrants returning to their home country, so the impact on their home labour market is likely to be minor.

What about the UK job market?

Many industries within the UK are reliant upon transient EU workers. In 18 different industries, over 20% of the labour force is made up of EU migrants. This rises to almost 50% in the fruit and vegetable picking and packaging industry and the meat processing industry. Even if it is only 300,000 people who leave, as the government suggests, it is still likely that these industries will be impacted by a labour shortage. This may cause increased prices, which are likely to be passed onto the consumer, and these will stay in place until the jobs can be filled, and new UK citizens have been sufficiently trained to the same standard as the EU migrants who have left.

Working on assumptions

This is assuming that the government figures are correct though, and since we have no way of validating these figures, nor are we privy to exactly how they were calculated. Forecasters have got many things wrong over the past few years; the way the UK would vote on Brexit and in the 2016 election, as well as the elections in America too. Therefore, the amount of trust we place in governmental figures should be questioned. While it would be optimistic to assume that there will be very little negative impacts on EU workers after Brexit and that the UK workforce and economy will not suffer as a result, it may well be worth the government and businesses alike to prepare contingency plans, just in case the worst does happen.

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