Nearly one third of non-UK European Union nationals employed by businesses in London say they have felt less welcome in the UK following its vote to leave the EU last June, according to new research conducted for the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
The same survey found that 14% of London businesses had experienced some non-UK EU staff leaving the country since the referendum result and that 32% were aware of expressions of concern by those still with them about whether they and their families will be allowed to stay in the UK.
The research, covering 577 London businesses and carried out by pollsters ComRes during November, was completed before last week’s stage one deal between the government and the EU protecting the existing rights of EU citizens living here – although they will have to register online in order to remain following Brexit – but after Prime Minister Theresa May wrote an open letter to them in October, saying “We want people to stay and we want families to stay together”. The PM repeated her overture on Monday. ComRes found that 29% of the businesses it asked had lost staff.
LCCI chief executive Colin Stanbridge described the assurances in the stage one deal as “a relief in some ways” but warned: “We don’t know if the staff that have gone will return and, if they don’t, who will plug that gap.”
Stanbridge also said “it is now more important than ever that we get to grips with how immigration will work” after Brexit and repeated the LCCI’s view that the capital should “have its own shortage occupation list to ensure that we have the right skills and enough staff to be able to continue as an attractive and globally competitive city”.
The ComRes findings follow figures released at the end of last month by the Office for National Statistics showing that London is being affected more than the rest of the country by a slowdown in overall net inward migration – from both EU states and elsewhere – of 38% of 2016. The proportion of EU nationals in London’s workforce is double that of the rest of the UK.