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How has the EU Referendum affected professional migration to the UK?

It was inevitable that the decision of the UK to leave the European Union would have an impact on the movement of people to and from the two entities. As previously reported, the population growth of the UK has a hit a 14-year low due to a stagnation in the flow of EU migrants in the wake of Brexit.

The migration of EU professionals to the UK, however, has been even more significantly affected, with latest reports by LinkedIn showing a substantial 26% reduction in 2018 – almost double the figure for EU migration as a whole.

What could be the potential causes of such a dramatic drop-off? One likely factor is the lack of clarity and certainty regarding the specific terms of Brexit and the position of the UK in the aftermath. Not only this, but there has been a notable exodus of international corporations moving headquarters or facilities away from the UK and into Europe. Unilever, the British-Dutch cosmetics and hygiene goods giant, relocated its headquarters from London to Rotterdam in early 2018 and whilst no jobs were lost as a result, the symbolic impact of such a major company ‘bailing’ out of the UK cannot be underplayed.

Other companies that are either to set to move or are publicly considering relocation include budget airline EasyJet which has now set up a European base in Vienna, Barclays Bank which has crossed the Irish Sea to Dublin, and technology colossus Microsoft which is looking to shift its focus to the continent. A report into the state of the UK’s creative industries outlined that the sharp decline in European talent being drawn to the country could have potential negative ramifications on this sector of the UK economy.

With the relocation of major companies to European bases coupled with the uncertain and often bleak economic forecasts for the UK, the appeal of Europe has grown, and many UK professionals are now migrating for work in EU countries, a reversal of the traditional flow. The long-term impact on the UK economy is yet to be seen but it will no doubt be affected by this change in relationship dynamic, and how the UK will aim to make immigration an appealing prospect once more is equally as unclear.


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