Manufacturers react to uncertainty surrounding EU workers

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Employers in manufacturing companies need ongoing access to workers with higher level and other technical skills from the EU and worldwide to maintain their ability to invest, grow and train in Britain.

This is according to a new briefing paper from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.

In the first of a series of Brexit briefings looking at the impact of leaving the EU, EEF makes a number of recommendations designed to help businesses manage the UK’s exit from the single market and the likely changes in immigration rules.

According to the UK statistics authority, UK manufacturers currently employ 300,000 EU citizens, representing about ten per cent of the workforce.

In its paper – A new model for migration – EEF argues that EU workers in the UK at the point it leaves the EU should retain their treaty rights. It also recommends that manufacturers be able to recruit highly skilled and experienced employees from the EU where the job is at graduate level with a salary threshold to be agreed with industry and a light-touch authorisation process.

While recognising that the UK will clearly need reasonable border controls after its exit from the EU, EEF says that the UK should still seek to retain the common travel area. Industry should be consulted on any system likely to be introduced to achieve this.

Tim Thomas, Director of Employment and Skills Policy at EEF, comments: “The UK continues to struggle with chronic skills shortages and manufacturers will need to continue to be able to employ suitably qualified people from the EU when we leave.

“The fact that more than a third of the occupations on the Home Office’s shortage occupation list relate to manufacturing and engineering tells its own story. Our initial recommendations aim to support the Government to enter negotiations to achieve managed and fair migration into the UK after we leave the EU.

“The UK will of course enter negotiations expecting reciprocal treatment from the EU, and it would be reasonable to assume that UK nationals travelling to the EU would be subject to similar restrictions to EU nationals entering the UK.”

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