How would “Brexit” impact the UK labour market?

This panel event debated the effect that free movement across Europe has had on UK employers’ abilities to secure the best talent and the potential consequences for employers of leaving the EU.

This event debated emerging research findings and is part of a wider programme of work by the Social Market Foundation in partnership with Adecco Group, examining the changing landscape of employment regulation.

Rt Hon. Sir Vince Cable, former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Alain Dehaze, Chief Executive, Adecco Group UK and Ireland
Rain Newton-Smith, Director of Economics, CBI
Jamie Martin, former Special Advisor to Michael Gove, now working in education technology sector
Cllr Warwick Lightfoot, an Economist for Brexit

Nida Broughton, Chief Economist, Social Market Foundation

The referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will take place on 23 June 2016. A crucial dimension of the debate is the impact of labour market regulation, which affects immigration rules and employment practices.  As a member of the EU, citizens of any EU country are able to work in the UK without restrictions. EU workers from outside the UK make up around 6% of all employees in the country. Clarity is needed as to how and in what ways UK employers are affected and the potential human resources implications. In addition, EU regulation – such as the Working Time Directive – establishes employment rules.

As part of the project, we are undertaking new analysis to examine the roles played by EU immigrants as employees in the UK labour market, their jobs, the sectors, occupations and regions in which they work. We are also exploring the different potential scenarios for the UK’s regulatory relationship with Europe if the country were to leave the single market and the potential consequences for UK employers. Key questions include:

  • What effect has free movement across Europe had on UK employers’ abilities to secure the best talent?
  • What sort of skills do EU migrants have and what job roles do they fulfil in the UK economy?
  • If the UK were to leave the EU, what would be the plausible alternative scenarios for the UK’s regulatory relationship with Europe and what would be the effects on UK employers?