• Organisations ‘struggling to identify’ foreign workers following Brexit vote, European Parliament told

  • 15 May 2017
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Chief negotiator says any deal that fails to secure EU citizens’ rights to work in UK ‘will not happen’

Employers are “struggling to identify their non-UK workforce” after last summer’s Brexit vote, an adviser on Brexit to the Mayor of London has warned.

Speaking at a European Parliament hearing, Julia Onslow-Cole – head of global immigration and legal markets at consultancy firm PwC and a member of the Mayor of London’s Brexit advisory group – pointed out that, for many organisations, Brexit marked the first time they had had to officially identify the different nationalities within their employee base.

In particular, Onslow-Cole said the number of non-British EU employees currently working in London was “significant”. A March 2017 study carried out by non-profit group London First and PwC found more than 55 per cent of London migrants from the 15 countries that made up the EU before its 2004 expansion are in managerial and professional roles.

Meanwhile, about 13 per cent of NHS doctors working in London are non-British EU nationals, and 15 per cent of the specialists in financial services were born within the EU.

At the same hearing, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, said any Brexit deal that failed to uphold the rights of EU citizens would not happen. “We will never give a consent if the issue has not been dealt in a satisfactory way,” Verhofstadt told the hearing.

Verhofstadt added that citizens’ rights should be the first point on the Brexit agenda after Britain’s general election on 8 June. Unlike UK prime minister Theresa May, who wants to keep the talks secret, Verhofstadt said he wanted to make Brexit deal proposals public “so uncertainty does not exist”.

Anne-Laure Donskoy, representing the3million, a not-profit initiative safeguarding the rights of EU and British citizens within the Brexit process, said: “EU citizens might become third country [non-EU] citizens pretty much overnight.”

She explained that people unable to get UK residence rights by the time Brexit becomes a reality worried that they risked losing their current jobs. She urged a simplified registration system for residence that was “fair, simple and free”.

There are currently around 3.2 million non-British EU citizens living in the UK, but the debate also heard concerns about the 4.5 million Britons living in other EU countries.

“Please do not let Brexit ruin great opportunities for the citizens of the UK”, said the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Charlie Jeffery, who stressed that statistics indicating that students participating in the EU’s Erasmus exchange programme have built better careers than peers who did not use the system.

The European Parliament will run a follow-up hearing on Brexit and citizens’ rights this autumn.

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Comments (2)
  • I agree with Tina. As a part of recruitment process all organisations have to check RTW documents therefore I also do not understand how it is even possible that any organisation can ''struggle'' with such a simple task...

  • Just a touch confused here - how can you NOT know how many EU/EEA workers you have in your company - we're required to show you our passports, to prove our Right to Work, aren't we? I say "we" as I am Norwegian, and the Home Office Right to Work policy has been in force for almost a decade!

    I am, though, like the other 3 million+ citizens, waiting to hear whether our rights are going to be protected or not after Brexit. Stressful and worrying times for us all!