Opinions on what leaving the EU might do to the UK job market
With the big vote now just a month away, Britain’s future in the EU is a hot topic. The debate has even stretched far beyond this small island, with US President Barack Obama urging Britain to remain, whilst French far-right nationalist Marine le Pen came out in favour of Brexit.
There is much to consider. It’s not just about international trade and governance. What will happen to the UK’s job market if Britain elects to leave on June 23?
Leave campaigners have long claimed that Britain would be stronger out of Europe, with jobs being no exception. The belief here is that free trade and movement brings in too much migration – thus affecting jobs in the process. Those on the right of the political spectrum (most notably UKIP supporters) campaign for British jobs for British people, saying that migrants are coming into the country and saturating our job market.
Former Cabinet Minister Ian Duncan-Smith (who supports Leave) said on the subject: “For every 100 migrants employed, 23 UK-born workers would have been displaced.” That said, his claims have been slated for not concerning EU migrants, but those from non-EU countries. Furthermore, these figures were found to be non-permanent, only becoming significant in times of downturn.
Either way, in the case of Britain voting to leave the EU, migration caps are expected to be introduced, in order to limit the number of people from other nations moving into the UK. The leave camp argues this would provide more jobs for UK people and a fairer division of labour.
Not everyone agrees that migration is the biggest concern. A number of big companies have signed a letter published in The Times that said quite the opposite. Looking at the corporate picture, these company bosses (among them those from BT, Vodafone, Marks & Spencer, BAE Systems and EasyJet) claimed that Brexit would deter foreign investment in the UK. The end result would be fewer opportunities here and – therefore – fewer jobs. A second letter, published more recently in The Telegraph, also added the names of bosses or founders from Superdrug, Reebok and JD Wetherspoon, among others.
This may sound like a compelling enough argument, but Leave campaigners were quick to point out that the letter in question didn’t contain signatures of bosses from two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies – among them Tesco, Barclays and Sainsbury’s. When quizzed on their omission, David Cameron (who is backing Remain) said some companies wanted to avoid political grandstanding. That may be the case in this instance, but many of the companies that stayed quiet this time have argued on one side or another during General Elections.
A pre-emptive strike
Perhaps most interestingly, it’s thought the EU referendum has already led to employment drops. With the verdict still very much uncertain, many companies have put their recruitment on ice, as they wait for the result before deciding on new hires. Financial services are thought to have witnessed some of the biggest declines, a trend that’s unlikely to change over the coming month as the referendum draws ever-nearer.
The government isn’t quite so certain that recruitment is waning in the face of financial uncertainty. A spokesperson told BT: “The latest official figures show there are around 750,000 vacancies in the economy at any one time – 9,000 more than the same time last year – across a wide range of industries and roles.”
In terms of employment legislation, very little (at least on the surface) would be expected to change. Backhouse Solicitors notes: “European laws that have been incorporated via Acts of Parliament are classed as ‘primary legislation’ and therefore freestanding UK laws. They would remain in place in the event of a Brexit unless the Government specifically decided to abolish them.”
The bigger issue is that of rulings from UK employment courts and tribunals. Currently, rulings from the continent are considered in UK cases, so a decision would need to be reached on whether this could continue and – if so – for how long.
Knowing that opinion would be divided (and vociferous), we asked on Twitter how others thought Brexit would impact on jobs and life in general.
PR consultant Francesca De Franco replied with the quote from journalist Vitali Vitaliev, who said: “Brexit will free UK industries, engineering and science from over-regulation by Brussels.” De Franco also noted that “thousands of directives” are issued by the European Commission each year to regulate new inventions and ideas. She echoed comments made by entrepreneur James Dyson, that it’s a huge barrier to innovation.
Marketer Jack Cooper said: “I think we might see a shift in the types of jobs becoming more available to graduates in particular, however it might leave some gaps of expertise we can’t fill here in the UK. Companies employ top talent, and that often means casting the net wider.”
Events Manager Larissa Hirst added: “I think there will be a gap in language skills with Europeans being put off working in Britain. I have also recently travelled to Europe a few times for work and believe a potential exit would impact my ability to be able to do this.”
One big complaint earlier in the year was that the referendum issue was difficult to comprehend – with a great deal of reading and studying needed in order to form an educated opinion on whether to side with the (both sickeningly titled) Brexit or Bremain camps.
It seems that people are now starting to find their side – something which pollsters have said correlates with an increase in Leave voters. Recent figures put public opinions on much more equal footing than just a few short weeks ago. Either way, the benefits or impacts that leaving the EU would have on British jobs are far from definitive. That decision on where to go next is yours.
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