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Recruiters stress retention of talent is key as Article 50 is triggered

The UK is on its way out of the European Union following the delivery of Prime Minister Theresa May’s letter confirming the UK’s intention to exit the EU, to European Council president, Donald Tusk, this afternoon.


In a speech to MPs in the House of Commons at the start of the UK’s two-year exit process, May declared, “The article 50 process is now under way. And in accordance with the wishes of the British People, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.”

She said she wanted the UK to be secure and prosperous and attract international talent, whilst maintaining a close relationship with the EU on areas such as security and economic affairs.

On immigration, May said, “We will control immigration so that we continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain, but manage the process properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest.

“We seek to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states as early as we can.”

While May stated that trade with the EU was important, she acknowledged that trade deals with countries outside the EU also need to be established: “It is clear that the UK needs to increase significantly its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world.”

She also reassured MPs that preserving employment rights was a priority: “We will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained. Indeed, under my leadership, not only will the Government protect the rights of workers, we will build on them.”

Summing up her address, May said it is “time to come together” to enable the best deal for the UK, adding, “There should be no reason why we should not agree a new deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU that works for us all.”

Commenting on the triggering of Article 50, Kevin Green, chief executive at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said, “The UK labour market has performed well since the EU referendum. Employers are continuing to create jobs and employment has reached record levels. As Brexit negotiations begin, we need the government to prioritise a deal which creates more jobs and prosperity.

“Our members want the status of EU nationals working here to be confirmed as soon as possible. EU nationals make up seven per cent of the workforce and in some sectors that figure is much higher. In food processing, nearly a third of the workforce are EU nationals. One in five tech workers in London are from the EU. These people are integral to UK business and future wealth creation.

“The UK has near-full employment and recruiters are saying the task of filling vacancies is becoming more difficult. EU workers are more likely to fill labour and skills gaps in industries that persistently report unfilled vacancies and skills shortages. We need an immigration system which reflects this reliance on workers from the EU. Everyone loses if UK employers can’t hire the people they need.

“The recruitment industry is on the front line of the UK jobs market. It is vital that government listens to business throughout the negotiations. The REC will continue to work in partnership with government to make sure our members’ voices are heard.”

James Parsons, CEO and founder of Arrows Group, stated, “While many of its implications are still unclear, from a digital skills perspective we’re already seeing how Brexit is making top digital talent reluctant to come to the UK and flock elsewhere instead. And the stats are alarming.

“Some overseas candidates are turning down competitive roles in the UK. Over the last year, we’ve seen a 10% reduction of skilled workers from within the European Union relocating to the UK. This trend is also being felt at a business level as some of our clients are apprehensive about increasing their investment in the UK.

“If this trend continues it could lead to a brain drain of top UK talent as generally they will want to work where the exciting projects are. We’re already seeing an increase in best-in-class developers taking roles in Switzerland which continues to be a fast-growing hub for tech innovation. As the Government takes these next steps it’s critical that it puts the right laws and incentives in place to keep top tech talent firmly on UK shores to enable innovation.”

Jo Sellick, managing director of Sellick Partnership, emphasised, “The UK labour market is heavily reliant on the knowledge and experience of people not just here in the UK, but across the whole of Europe, and Brexit will undoubtedly impact this short-term. For this reason, I would urge May to seriously consider our access to the European labour market, and ensure any new deal enables employers to bring in skilled and unskilled workers from outside the UK.

“We need access to the EU labour market to help support business growth and address labour shortages, especially while negotiations are taking place. I do hope that longer-term, Brexit will have a positive impact, as UK businesses will need to put a greater focus and emphasis on the importance of developing and hiring home-grown talent.”

Tom Freeman, managing director of Sanctuary Graduates, added, "Brexit is already impacting the UK's ability to attract the best and brightest graduates from across the continent. Some 38% of the graduates our graduate recruitment agency placed with our clients in 2015 were from EU countries. In 2016, this dropped to just over a quarter (27%) of the total. So far, this year, it's just over one in ten (12%). 

“UK businesses recruit graduates from all over Europe because they want the best graduate talent. However, we know from the graduates we've spoken to that the current and future uncertainty makes the UK less attractive now than it was before the vote on 23rd June, and many are preferring graduate offers from the continent.

“We know from recent university application data that EU students are less likely to apply to UK universities meaning that the graduate talent pool in the UK is going to shrink. As a country, we need to counteract this if we and our UK businesses are to remain competitive on the global stage."

Samantha Hurley, operations director at APSCo, said, “We welcome the fact that Article 50 has finally been triggered as this marks the beginning of the end of a period of perceived uncertainty for the professional recruitment sector. Many of the issues that are likely to arise from Brexit will have either a direct or indirect impact on professional recruitment. 

“Access to talent is a top consideration. It is critical that recruiters can continue to find the best available talent either from within the UK, the EU or elsewhere. Conversely, it is critical that UK professionals can continue to work throughout the EU.

“It is crucial that any changes to immigration rules after the UK has left the EU take into account the need for professional talent in both the UK and the European Union. APSCo will continue to call for realistic limits on immigration that allow the movement of professionals to the benefit of the whole economy.

“APSCo is a global trade association and many of our members operate across borders. While continued access to candidates is, of course, vital, we must also consider the rights of the recruitment workforce itself. APSCo is concerned that the sharp rhetoric regarding Brexit negotiations could potentially obscure the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens living overseas. It is critical for the recruitment sector that people from the EU working in the UK know where they stand - and soon.”


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