Apart from European migration, the United Kingdom is also facing immigration from non-EU states and accepting a limited number of arrivals from war-torn countries. British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps in neighboring countries by 2020.
Brexit to Help UK Control Immigration
While in recent years successive British governments have pledged to bring immigration levels down, they have failed to do so, with numbers continuing to rise. Pro-Brexit lawmakers and various experts have argued that Brexit is the only way to stop the influx.
"Brexit would allow the UK to reduce migration from within the EU by ending free movement for EU workers coming to the UK," Principal Research Fellow at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research Jonathan Portes told Sputnik.
"Given that there will be no automatic right to free movement of workers, a British exit from the EU would bring with it the possibility of the introduction of a skills-based test for any EU migrants wishing to work in the UK. This might be based on, for example, English language ability, the level of skill and any particular industry shortage and whether or not any UK nationals would be capable of filling the role," Kevin Charles, director of Crossland Employment Solicitors, specialists in employment law, told Sputnik.
Some Sectors of Economy May Suffer
A number of industries might lose out in the case of Brexit, especially those reliant on skilled workers from other EU countries, such as medical, automotive and financial services.
"There would be significant ramifications in certain industries such as retail, hotel and catering, agriculture and potentially manufacturing, if those industries were unable to recruit low cost EU migrant workers," Rob McNeil from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford told Sputnik.
Experts have also claimed that losing access to workers from across the European Union would have a negative impact on British industries and the overall state of the economy, but did not make predictions about the long-term effects of Brexit.
According to McNeil, it is hard to predict the long-term consequences of Brexit for employment in the United Kingdom, as no policies to deal with the potential exit have yet been agreed upon.
"It is impossible to say what the long term consequences for industries or growth would be because it is impossible to know precisely what policies would be in place to help those businesses deal with this situation," he said.
Uncertainty Regarding Future of Workers
In the event of Brexit and the automatic suspension of the freedom of movement principle, the future of British workers residing in the European Union and European employees in the United Kingdom remains uncertain, experts have claimed, stressing that much would depend on post-referendum negotiations between London and each specific EU member state.
"The rights of EU citizens residing in other EU countries should be protected. Those people who wish to move to another EU country or who return to the UK and then try to return to the country in which they had lived before may face some challenges, but again it will entirely depend on post-referendum negotiations with individual member states," Rob McNeil said.
"In terms of immigration, there is a sort of uncertainty about what is going to happen to people. That is something that needs to be talked about, there is no proposal at the moment. The issue really is that in principle, according to international law, if you are an EU immigrant staying in London, you should be able to stay… There are also concerns that UK immigrants who are in the EU would also potentially have to leave if they no longer have the right to remain," Dhingra said.
At the same time, Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK, specialists in immigration law for professionals and businesses, told Sputnik that the UK Points-Based System for attracting skills workers would need to be revised in the event of Brexit, in order to prioritize those sectors that would suffer skills shortages.
"The UK currently adopts a Points Based System which is primarily geared towards attracting skilled migrants only for jobs that would either require a degree or roles that are senior and very technical in nature. Numerous migrants also require a level of English language and need to be paid at the ‘going rate’ for the job that they are performing. The UK currently employs hundreds of thousands of EU migrants in roles that would not qualify under the current Points Based System. These roles are vital for the UK economy so keeping the current system in place and limiting numbers to 100,000 a year or less would be devastating. The UK will therefore need to comprehensively revise the current Points Based System that may offer different criteria to EU nationals or may follow a system that prioritizes current skills shortages."
Brexit Not to Solve All Employment Problems
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that people from the European Union, especially from Eastern Europe, are working in the United Kingdom, paying taxes and have made the United Kingdom their new home, cautioning against blaming everything on migration. According to Corbyn, in order to achieve a better society for all, no upper limits should be introduced on migration, but instead working conditions should be improved throughout Europe.
The British Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found in a survey it conducted that British employers are growingly reliant on migrant workers, who have lower expectations with regards to pay and employment conditions, thus boosting their profitability.
While the Leave campaign argues that Brexit would have a positive impact on the country’s economy, boosting employment levels among British citizens, the situation is much more complex, given the fact that it would require a long time for UK companies to adapt to the new realities and fill vacant positions from the often less competitive and more demanding local workforce.