Brexit: UK immigration system found to contribute to labour shortages

Press quote (EurActiv)
27 February 2023

The labour market for low-skilled EU workers is “much tighter” now than before the Brexit deal was signed in December 2020, John Springford, Deputy Director of the Centre for European Reform (CER), told EURACTIV.

Springford co-authored a CER study, published in January, which found that Brexit had led to a loss of 460,000 EU workers compared to 2019, after taking the COVID-19 pandemic into account.

“The large shortfall of non-UK workers is mostly in sectors that disproportionately employ less-skilled workers”, the study reads.

As such, the study found that the actual number of EU nationals employed in the UK today is lower across the board (bar in education jobs) than what would have been the case if the post-Brexit immigration system had not seen light of day.

...This new system “effectively delivers on a campaign promise”, Springford said.

“It makes it harder for low-skilled EU workers, and relatively more liberal for the higher-skilled,” he said. Higher-skilled workers are more likely to have salary expectations that go beyond the minimum £25,600/year (€29,000) threshold. They will also have the necessary resources and time to navigate the requisite bureaucracy.

...According to CER’s Springford, while the pattern of moving abroad for work is marginally down across the European continent, the UK is a strong outlier.

“When controlling for intra-EU work moves, we find that numbers are down 3% between Member States, and a stark 19% for EU-to-UK,” he said.