Past Event

Labour mobility after Brexit

What will Brexit mean for the free movement of workers between the UK and the EU?

Date: December 2, 2016, 12:00 pm Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

summary

SEE BELOW FOR THE VIDEO&AUDIO RECORDING AND EVENT MATERIALS 

Immigration was a major factor – if not the major factor – in the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Brexit is a reflection of values on multiculturalism and globalization. The UK government is promising to take a tough stance on immigration in the negotiations. Meanwhile EU leaders are signalling that freedom of movement is non-negotiable and four central European countries are threatening to block any trade deal with the UK that would restrict the rights of their workers to live and work in the EU.

At this event we brought together three experts to discuss what Brexit is likely to mean for the free movement of workers between the UK and the EU. As a result, three main ideas have emerged:

Economic consequences are adverse

The United Kingdom has witnessed a rapid growth of EU nationals in the labour market in a very short time. Currently, half of the people who access the English labour market are international, half of whom do not have a secured job when entering the UK. This panorama is likely to change.

While in theory the consequences for high-skilled and low-skilled workers would be different, the former facing lower immigration controls, in practice it is not possible to control low-skilled migration without controlling high-skilled migration: A skill-based system implies proof of skills, which is in itself a barrier.  Middle-skilled workers (e.g. lab technicians) are left with a more uncertain picture. They do not qualify under the current UK immigration rules as skilled and often require an investment in training that is unappealing in this setting.

Businesses that rely heavily on low-skilled migrant workers may face costs in changing their recruitment system, as the pool of the unemployed British cannot replace this gap.

In summary, controlling free movement in the workplace is expected to lead to an increase in costly regulatory burdens and bureaucracy. A reduction in openness is likely to have short-term and long-term negative effects in the country’s output and productivity.

Solutions are unclear and complex

While the end of free movement is not a synonym for border controls, it is expectable that applications for work permits will be held at Embassies before entering the country. For non-British residents, formalities to remain in the UK – including the registration process and the eligibility conditions – are still unclear.

Policy choices essentially divide between a ‘hard’ and a ‘soft’ Brexit. A soft Brexit would resemble a ‘Norwegian’ model, characterized by free movement and membership in the EEA. However, the British public’s need to feel a tangible difference might push for a hard Brexit that treats Europeans as third country nationals. In any of the scenarios, effective public acceptance will be hard to measure.

A wider debate is launched

At a time when evidence policymaking is being advocated, the trend seems to be evidence-free policymaking. Labour mobility policies may reduce inequality, yet there is a wide misunderstanding by a large part of the population of the effects of migration. For how long can reality move away from the facts, and how can the public debate be so different from reality? The audience concluded that the wave of populism in Europe cannot be explained using only economics. It is essential that societal factors are taken into account when discussing these issues and bring back the connection to the people. In this sense, it was suggested that businesses too have the responsibility to speak out.

Event notes by Inês Gonçalves Raposo

VIDEO and audio recording


Event materials

Jonathan Portes – Presentation

Schedule

Dec 02, 2016

12:00-12:30

Check-in and lunch

12:30-13:15

Panel discussion

Chair: Zsolt Darvas, Senior Fellow

Lindsey Barras, Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal

Jonathan Portes, Principal Research Fellow, National Institute of Economic and Social Research

Klaus F. Zimmermann, Princeton University and UNU-MERIT

13:15-14:00

Q&A

14:00

End

Speakers

Lindsey Barras

Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal

Zsolt Darvas

Senior Fellow

Jonathan Portes

Principal Research Fellow, National Institute of Economic and Social Research

Klaus F. Zimmermann

Princeton University and UNU-MERIT

Location & Contact

Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels

Matilda Sevon

matilda.sevon@bruegel.org

Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Brexit consequences for EU climate and energy policy

Bruegel fellow Georg Zachmann joins Richard Tol, professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Sussex, and Pieter-Willem Lemmens, head of analysis at the climate policy think-tank Sandbag, for this episode of 'The Sound of Economics', to discuss the impact of Brexit on climate and energy policy in the European Union.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: February 15, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

European Parliament: More representative post-Brexit?

Bruegel director Guntram Wolff features in this episode of 'The Sound of Economics', highlighting how a reallocation of seats in the European Parliament following Brexit provides the opportunity to make the institution more representative of EU citizens.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: February 5, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Difficulties and opportunities in reallocating European Parliament seats after Brexit

The European Parliament must carefully consider the reallocation of seats after Brexit, allowing for a potential shift in political alignment and working within parameters already agreed with Member States.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: February 5, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Integration of migrants in the EU

This event will discuss the integration of migrants in the EU as well as the EU's response to the recent refugee crisis

Speakers: Manu Bhardwaj, Herbert Brücker, Jutta Cordt, Zsolt Darvas, Naika Foroutan, Marcel Fratzscher, Manjula M. Luthria and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Mohrenstraße 58, 10117 Berlin, Germany Date: January 29, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

The ever-rising labour shortages in Europe

Historically high labour shortages in most central-eastern and north-western EU countries suggest that the immigration of central Europeans to north-west EU countries did not take away jobs from local workers on a significant scale. But as labour shortages now exceed their pre-crisis peak, several urgent measures must be considered to help to combat the problem.

By: Zsolt Darvas and Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: January 25, 2018
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Blueprint

People on the move: migration and mobility in the European Union

Migration is one of the most divisive policy topics in today’s Europe. In this publication, the authors assess the immigration challenge that the EU faces, analyse public perceptions, map migration patterns in the EU and review the literature on the economic impact of immigration to reflect on immigration policies and the role of private institutions in fostering integration.

By: Uuriintuya Batsaikhan, Zsolt Darvas and Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: January 22, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Does the European Parliament miss an opportunity to reform after Brexit?

While Brexit negotiations are beginning to progress, the European Parliament is preparing to vote on the possible reallocation of seats following the UK's departure. With many of the current proposals reflecting Member States' concerns about losing seats, this paper advocates for options that could better achieve equality of representation even within the constraints of the EU treaties.

By: Robert Kalcik, Nicolas Moës and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: January 10, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Opportunities and risks in Europe in 2018

The new year could very well see the positive story of 2017 continue in Europe – but a number of looming policy and political problems cannot be ignored.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: December 30, 2017
Read article Download PDF

External Publication

European Parliament

The Impact of Brexit on the EU Energy System

What will be the impact of Brexit on the EU energy system? With or without the UK, the EU will be able to complete its market, to achieve its climate and energy targets with feasible readjustments, and to maintain supply security

By: Gustav Fredriksson, Alexander Roth, Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, European Parliament, Testimonies Date: December 19, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Optimistic UK business confidence indicators predict smooth Brexit

UK business confidence indicators hardly fell after the Brexit vote in 2016 and have been increasing steadily since. The most likely reason is an expectation of smooth Brexit deal, especially for industry, while there is more uncertainty for services.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: December 19, 2017
Read article More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Inclusive Europe: a journey towards integration

How has immigration become an essential part of the EU? What incentives should be made to encourage EU intra-mobility? Why and how should we proceed to foster refugees' inclusion in the EU? Zsolt Darvas and Manu Bhardwaj of Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth discuss the future of migration within the EU.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: December 14, 2017
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Brexit, phase two (and beyond): The future of the EU-UK relationship

Whether it looks more like ‘CETA-plus’ or ‘EEA-minus’, the trade deal that emerges from phase two of the Brexit negotiations should not be the limit of ambition for future partnership between the EU and the UK

By: Maria Demertzis and André Sapir Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: December 13, 2017
Load more posts