Brexit from the European Union (EU) would result in significant changes to where employers get their workers from, according to a business immigration lawyer.
Kate Gamester, a specialist in business immigration at law firm Squire Patton Boggs, was speaking at a members’ meeting last week of APSCo (Association of Professional Staffing Companies).
If the UK decided to leave the European single market after the referendum on 23 June, “post-Brexit UK immigration policy would look very different”, said Gamester.
She said the likelihood was that we would see “an equally restrictive visa regime for EEA (European Economic Area) and non-EEA nationals”.
Gamester said that if this happened, the yearly cap on Tier-2 visas, covering skilled workers from outside the EEA and Switzerland, would have to increase as current skills shortages in the UK would likely worsen.
Gamester went on to predict that Tier-3 visas, covering low-skilled workers filling specific, temporary labour shortages, which are currently closed to workers from outside the EEA, “might have to be opened”. This would be to fill any skills gaps created if the free movement of labour from the EEA to the UK were to be restricted.
She said this could be necessary in sectors such as agriculture and hospitality, which currently rely on EEA workers.
In a debate on the referendum, Alex Story, a member of the Grassroots Out/Leave.eu campaign, said that the free movement of workers would survive post-Brexit “simply because there is a need for it”, adding “I think most people would accept that we need to attract workers into the UK.”
Commenting from the floor, Richard Herring, managing director and senior vice president at life sciences recruiter Volt, which has two offices in Continental Europe, said that any post-Brexit quota system “would require a lot of negotiation” between the UK and other countries.