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UK labour market should be priority for general election, recruitment industry says

Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a general election on 8th June, prompting recruiters and industry trade bodies to collectively back a focus on the UK employment market, whatever the outcome.

Despite previously saying there would be no general election until 2020, in a statement outside Number 10 this morning, May (pictured) said an election would "guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead" following the EU referendum.

She said, "The country is coming together but Westminster is not. At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division."

Commenting on the Government's stance on the UK economy since the vote to leave the EU, May stressed, "Despite predictions of immediate financial and economic danger, since the referendum we have seen consumer confidence remain high, record numbers of jobs, and economic growth that has exceeded all expectations."

MPs in the House of Commons will vote on the proposed election on Wednesday, but the Prime Minister is expected to win the support of the required two-thirds of MPs, which she needs to call a general election before the next scheduled date of 2020.

The general election is set to bring fierce competition for leadership, clarity on Brexit, and calls for action on an independence vote for Scotland and a vote on the unification of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Samantha Hurley, operations director at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), commented, "Considering we were promised that there would be no General Election until 2020, Theresa May's announcement is nothing short of surprising. However a snap election offers the opportunity to get skills, jobs, and recruitment up the agenda, not only from an internal perspective, but also with regards to the Brexit negotiations. To date, initial discussions on a possible interim trade deal have focused heavily on goods rather than services. We hope that the Government's election campaign will act as a catalyst to firm up strategies around skills and employment post-Brexit and push UK skills and the importance of the UK professional labour market into the spotlight.

"The Prime Minister has called this election to put an end to, "uncertainty and instability" – we'll have to wait and see whether the election delivers this, and that this extends to legislation around trade and employment that will positively impact the professional recruitment sector directly."

Kate Shoesmith, head of policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said, "It's been a turbulent year for politics and by extension the markets. So far the labour market has held up well - we have record high employment and record low unemployment.

"I hope that all the parties go into this short, intense campaign with the value of a strong labour market to the UK economy at the forefront of their minds. Our industry is worth £35.1 billion to the economy and recruiters transform peoples' lives every day. That contribution needs to be recognised and supported by whoever forms the next government."

Stuart McBride, managing director of Bluestones Group, stated, "The announcement to hold a general election comes as a surprise but if we have learned anything from the Brexit vote it's that the recruitment and job market is buoyant and robust. The general election brings with it a level of uncertainty, but given the relative disarray of the other parties, a positive outcome for businesses and recruitment would have to be a Conservative win."

Ford Garrard, senior vice president – Europe & Africa at Airswift, commented, "This general election may come as a surprise to some, but the hope is that it will strengthen May's support for Brexit. What we don't yet know is how it will impact the Brexit process, immigration and employment law. On the one hand any major changes in these areas could have huge implications for both UK and European companies, particularly in project-based industries such as energy, if they can't get the right people, in the right place at the right time.

"On the other hand, the election could help promote a better understanding of what will happen to EU workers residing in the UK. The main question for many businesses is will these workers stay or leave? And if they do leave, how can UK industry upskill the local population to meet its workforce needs? There is a significant opportunity here for the UK government to influence skills and training programmes and determine if EU-influenced orders such as the working time directive will change."

John Hunter, CEO of Argyll Scott, commented, “At Argyll Scott we welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to call a general election in order to seek a clear mandate for her Brexit strategy.    Whatever the outcome, we hope that a clear mandate will enable the incoming administration to set out clear and deliverable negotiating objectives with our EU partners that will help create a business environment that encourages investment and promotes growth in employment. We look forward to an open, informative and constructive election campaign which we hope will also provide an opportunity to debate solutions to some of the ongoing shortcomings in the UK labour market particularly in respect key still shortages and poor levels of productivity growth."

Shaun Critchley, managing director at ADVANCE, said, "An election will cause greater uncertainty in the short term, but come 9th June recruiters will at least have a clearer picture of where we are heading in terms of Brexit. Another Tory majority would mean full steam ahead for Brexit and kill off any lingering chances of the referendum result being overturned.

 "It looks like being a busy couple of months for contract recruiters as we await the election result, with firms potentially delaying permanent hiring and ramping up their contractor headcount due to the greater flexibility."

Edith Bryan, communications officer at Supertemps, stated, “It was less than 4 weeks ago, that Theresa May was once again reiterating that she would not call an early election. The Prime Minister insisted that it would be a significant distraction from the task of delivering Brexit and would cause uncertainty just as the process was getting under way.

However, it seems that sentiment has been lost, with May seeing an opportunity [to] secure her own mandate and deliver policies without being bound by Cameron’s 2015 manifesto.

"For the rest of us, well, we must endure more uncertainty and political turmoil as we wait to see the outcome of this snap general election. The focus shifts yet again, from stabilising and securing the UK’s future, to a rushed and unnecessary general election and accompanying media frenzy. The impact of this decision on the UK economy will likely be muted, though as is normal for the run up to any election, some market volatility is to be expected in the coming months.

"So what could the potential outcome be? Could there be a chance of a coalition government forming? It’s unlikely. As for the opposition stepping up – well, the Tories couldn’t face less of a challenge than they do from Labour currently. This snap election is purely strategic. Nothing was going to happen with the Brexit negotiations until after the French elections anyway; this election is being called to secure May more power, with which she can deliver her hard Brexit strategy.”

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