Recruiters welcome softer Brexit stance in Queen’s Speech

Recruiters have welcomed an anticipated ‘softer’ stance on immigration than previously indicated from government following yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

Accompanying documents to the speech contained details of an Immigration Bill that commits government to controlling numbers of people coming to the UK from Europe, while still attracting top talent from the Continent.

And in debating government’s plans following the Queen’s Speech, Prime Minister Theresa May promised to work with "anyone in any party" in the national interest on Brexit and other issues.

The Immigration Bill allows for the repeal of EU law on immigration, primarily free movement, as well as ensuring migration of EU nationals and their family members is subject to relevant UK law once the UK has left the EU. 

Peter Searle, CEO of Airswift, a global workforce solutions provider for energy, process and infrastructure sectors, welcomed what he regards as a “softer” stance on immigration from government. However, he warned the government still needs to roll out clear initiatives around how project-based industries can continue to access international talent. 

“If not, this could lead to a reluctance from global operators to invest into North Sea exploration projects or delay those already planned. What’s more, without clarity we could see a negative impact on investment into other UK infrastructure and wider energy projects.”

Meanwhile, Tony Goodwin group CEO and chairman of global recruiter Antal International and Antal International Network, told Recruiter a softer approach to Brexit should mean greater flexibility and choice for UK employers. 

“Certainly we must keep employment opportunities available for all willing, skilled and motivated workers from Europe but also from all over the globe. That has been a cornerstone of our economic success in the last 50 years or more. 

“We haven't left Europe; we left a club called the EU and we must be careful to make that distinction, and not alienate great trading partners within Europe by overly restricting the flow of needed skilled labour.”

David Leyshon, chairman at technical recruiter CBSbutler, told Recruiter his clients seeking staff armed with STEM skills would also welcome a softer stance to immigration in a post-Brexit world.

“It’s encouraging to read that we may be set for a softer Brexit; I think many business leaders will welcome a softer approach as jobs and the economy are set above immigration. A lot of businesses rely on Europe for key talent in STEM-related industries because of the widening skills gap in the UK, and though we do need a measurable immigration policy we also need to ensure that it is not detrimental to businesses that rely access on EU talent pools. 

“Recruiters like us who serve to all STEM related industries use candidates from all over the UK and Europe and we would probably find it difficult to function if we did not have access to a unique breadth of talent.”

Jo Sellick, managing director at legal recruiter Sellick Partnership, also welcomed the government’s change from what he regards as ‘hard Brexit’ rhetoric: “I completely agree that we need a sustainable immigration policy, but this should be one that gives businesses across the UK access to the EU talent pool we rely so heavily on,” he said.

“A large proportion of our candidates at Sellick Partnership are from overseas, and our public services would not be able to function properly without them, so this is a positive step. This should alleviate some of the concerns of businesses already employing EU nationals, and also recruiters like myself that regularly use candidates from across Europe.”

But employment lawyer Dr Sybille Steiner, partner solicitor at law firm Irwin Mitchell, warns it is “very likely” that government’s Immigration Bill will make it “far more” difficult for people to come and work in the UK. 

“We must hope that the government will listen to businesses in the UK who have made it clear that restricting free movement is not good for the UK economy,” she added.

With regards to the gig economy and Matthew Taylor’s ongoing review of modern employment practices, commissioned in October 2016, government added in the accompany documents to the Queen’s Speech that it looked forward to the report’s findings shortly.

On this point, director of policy for IPSE, the self employed and freelancer association, Simon McVicker agrees it is important government gets to grips with modern employment practices but must also protect the flexibility that gives the UK a critical advantage over other European economies.

“To protect the interests of small businesses and the self-employed, the government should ensure that their voices are heard in the upcoming Brexit negotiation. The UK must prioritise making it possible for the self-employed to continue working and doing business in Europe.

“Independent professionals make an invaluable contribution to the economy – both in terms of productivity and innovation. They deserve to be rewarded for the dynamism they bring to our economy.”

Damian Broughton, executive chairman at accountancy firm for contractors Danbro, told Recruiter he expects further changes affecting temporary workers following Taylor’s publication of the report expected later this summer.

“[The phrase] ‘My ministers will seek to enhance rights and protections in the modern workplace’ suggests that there could be further proposed changes that will affect the temporary worker sector following the publication of the Taylor Report, which is expected soon. An indication of the complexity of issues surrounding our sector was seen yesterday with the publication of the SMF [think-tank Social Market Foundation] paper entitled ‘Rules of Engagement’.”

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