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Fears over recruitment 'cliff-edge' without migrants' movement freedoms

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If no Brexit deal is agreed the freedom of movement for EU migrants should be extended for at least two years to help cities avoid a sudden shortfall in their workforces, according to a thinktank.

Ahead of the government’s anticipated publication of its Brexit ‘no deal’ plans, due tomorrow, Centre for Cities has published a report which shows how places in England and Wales could be affected.

The report said 70% of EU migrants in England and Wales choose to live in cities. It also said EU migrants are more likely to be in work than UK-born residents of these cities (70% compared to 58%), and are more likely to have a degree (33% compared to 26%).

Cities in the south east are particularly reliant on EU migrants and account for about one in 10 workers in places including Cambridge, London and Oxford.

Cities most reliant on EU workersShare of total workforce made up of EU migrants (2011)
Cambridge 12%
Peterborough 11%
London 9%
Oxford 9%
Cardiff 9%
Luton 8%
Slough 7%
Northampton 6%
Bradford 6%
Brighton & Hove 5%

The average share of the total workforce made up of EU migrants across England and Wales is 4%

Analysis of national insurance number registrations indicates that EU migration has already decreased in 51 out of 58 English and Welsh cities between 2015-16 and 2016-17, suggesting that they have become less attractive destinations for European workers since the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said: “The UK’s future outside the EU is unclear, especially in a ‘no deal scenario’. But whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations, the government can offer certainty by ensuring cities can continue to attract the high-skilled and low-skilled EU migrants they need to thrive.

“In the short-term, it should continue to allow EU migrants to come and work in UK cities for at least the next two years, even if there is no Brexit deal in place. This will be crucial in helping cities avoid a cliff-edge in terms of recruiting the workers they need.

“In the long-term, we need an immigration system which is more flexible than current rules on migration from outside the European Economic Area. That means scrapping the cap on high-skilled workers, and offering more cities continued scope to attract low-skilled workers. Not only will that be vital for the prosperity of places across the country, it will also be critical for the national economy in the years to come.”

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