How Badly will Brexit Affect UK Tech Talent?

How Badly will Brexit Affect UK Tech Talent?

Brexit is almost upon us. With the clock ticking down the hours, we are now in the last few days of being part of the European Union. Formally leaving the EU on January 31, we’ll be entering a transition period which will see us remaining subject to the union’s rules and regulations while undergoing a process of untangling from a 47-year relationship.

Although the so-called “remain” camp has anticipated a disaster for the country as it separates from its largest single trading partner, there is one sector that has up to now defied the prediction. We are talking about the technology industry. The UK tech industry currently finds itself way ahead of its European counterparts. In London alone there are 45 unicorns (startups valued at $1 billion and above) compared to 10 in Berlin, its closest European competitor.

London is believed to maintain its dominance in the space and investors seem to be optimistic as well. While the total capital invested in tech startups in China and the U.S. fell dramatically last year, it grew by 44% in the UK. While the total investment in the US and China was significantly higher, the rate of growth in Britan is what stood out. While all these projections seem promising the question still remains: how will Brexit affect tech talent?

With the end of free movement in sight, what follows is still unclear. Will the UK see the introduction of work permits, follow an Australian-style points-based system, or something completely different?

One of the clearest implications of the referendum was curbing immigration. The intrinsic rights of EU citizens to work and live in any member states were always going to be a casualty of the leave vote. The government has made it clear from the start that it would aim to control the numbers of people coming to live in Britain from Europe, much like it does for citizens of other countries across the world.

The UK tech industry however is very much dependent on foreign labour. This has been made abundantly clear by the UK visa system, with its capricious rules on how many applicants are allowed entry. Many companies across the industry could see the talent pool shrink drastically if tighter controls on immigration than we have currently would be put into place. A “private sector-led coalition of more than 4,000 expert individuals from the tech sector”, Tech London Advocates, claims that one in three tech workers in Britain were born overseas. Industry analysts agree with this number and go on to say that if immigration is curbed significantly then there simply isn’t enough local talent to fill the gap.

Research last year suggested that the UKs growing skill shortage could worsen dramatically is the disruptive effects of Brexit are fully realised. However, not everyone believes Britain’s tech industry’s future is shrouded in gloom outside of the UK. A different report suggested that the UK could see a potential job boom in the science, technology and healthcare industries, with millions of new jobs created in the next twenty years.

A report by BNP Paribas and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) found that 2.7 million new jobs could be brought into the economy by 2038. This is a prediction based on a smooth departure from the EU however. Although it bucks the general trend, it also shows that the forecasting for jobs isn’t as clear-cut as predictions of doom may suggest.

With all the above said, let’s take a look at how leaving the European Union will affect EU citizens for the foreseeable future.

EU Citizens already living in the UK:

At the moment, EU citizen rights are unaffected. If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, the rights and status of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK will remain the same until the 30th of June 2021. The government advises all to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and if your application is successful you’ll have the right to live and work in the UK after the aforementioned deadline.

When applying to the EU Settlement Scheme you’ll be given either settled or pre-settled status. Which status you receive depends on how long you’ve been living in the UK when you apply.

EU Citizens Thinking of Moving To The UK:

One thing that we have noticed here at ShapeIT is that there is currently a reticence both from candidates and clients when it comes to relocating EU citizens for roles. Let's have a look at where we stand in terms of the right to work in the UK for any EU citizens moving to the UK this year.

So where does that leave EU citizens that want to move to the UK? All that is certain is that if you move to the UK before the 31st of December 2020 you can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and receive pre-settled status. This status can be changed once you’ve been in the UK for a period of 5 years continuous residence.

With the pre-settled status you’ll be able to work in the UK, access the NHS for free, have access to public funds such as pensions, enrol in education and travel in and out of the UK.

While the full impact of Brexit on the tech industry won’t be clear until we iron out our separation from the EU fully, it is still good to know that access to EU talent is still there. How have you or your organisation prepared for Brexit’s impact on talent?

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