Migrant workers harvest and sort celery in Cambridgeshire fields © Bloomberg
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Most EU citizens already working in the UK would not meet existing visa requirements for non-EU foreign nationals who apply to work in Britain, according to a recent study carried out for the Financial Times by Oxford university’s Migration Observatory.

In the event of Britain leaving the union, this would affect both EU workers and the businesses that employ them — although Leave campaigners say it is wrong to assume the visa rules would not change, and claim that those EU citizens already in the UK would have their rights “unaffected”.

Responding to this article, FT readers — both EU citizens and UK employers — discussed the impact stricter visa rules may have on their jobs and businesses. Although some employers anticipate UK workers will fill the gaps if it becomes difficult for EU citizens to take on relatively low-paid, low-skilled jobs in Britain, most are worried that Brexit will cause economic stress.

The concerned employer

I employ Germans to deal with German customers and French nationals to deal with French customers. While it is possible to find bilingual British nationals to replace such profiles, it would certainly be a lot harder to provide the same level of service, and therefore generate the same amount of business. In fact, since my business is almost entirely outside of the UK, providing services which non-domestic companies (largely from Europe) pay us for, it would probably make business very difficult indeed.

On a brighter note, now that Donald Trump has publicly advised the UK to leave, I imagine that even the most hardened of Brexit voters will have second thoughts.


There are plenty of unemployed native British today choosing not to take up positions of unskilled labour. So employers (I am one) opt for immigrants, whether from the EU or otherwise, who are willing to work at current wage rates. The supply of eastern European workers has had a strong benefit for all residents of the UK by keeping down prices in the UK over the past 15 years . . . There will be a significant negative impact on my business if immigration is restricted, either through reduced skill levels of workers available, or increased labour costs, or both.


My business is mainly in the UK, with a few subsidiaries in other EU member states. We are a service business and we work with B2B customers all over the EU. Our staff are highly skilled and specialist (and rather well-paid). More than half of our staff come from other EU member states. It is the nature of our business that we have to send people from the UK to work on location in other EU member states, and losing the free movement of people would be very bad indeed for our business. I believe we would have to offer to relocate the non-UK employees to the other offices, and then lay off some UK staff, as the UK offices would then become relegated to only service the UK, which is a smaller part of our business. I can’t see how that could possibly be good for the UK.


The unfazed employer

© PA

I run a consultancy. EU workers are generally not that great. They are diligent and quiet. Not too career-minded as most of them are here only until things get better back home or they’ve finished travelling. That’s at middling professional level.

They are OK. I employ the best put in front of me and it’s a mixture of Brits and EU workers. I know that British workers are far more knowledgeable of their rights and EU workers don’t really care. We have to sit them down and tell them but they often don’t see past the next six months.

If there was a Brexit I would help them get any visa they required. If they all left en masse then I could replace them with local workers no problem at all.


The EU citizen

I work on a start-up out of Google Campus London. Were Brexit to pass, 80 per cent of the people in Google Campus would [not qualify]. Berlin may then overtake London as the entrepreneurial hub of Europe, especially since it already beats London on cost of living and doesn’t lack in tech talent.

Time to dust off my old German language textbooks.

-Yichen W

My wife is British and so are my children, but I hold an EU passport. If we choose to go back to England I [may] need to apply for a visa, get a corporate sponsor and probably be in work-limbo for months. And if I did not want to get employed but start a business or work by myself . . . no visa!

This is the case of a British family that could not go back to England.


I have a Polish girlfriend who is (now) a Silver Circle lawyer in London. I often discuss her plight at the hands of a potential Brexit. What frustrates me are my English friends’ anecdotal claims that “she’d be fine: she’s a lawyer”. The point is that like most immigrants, she didn’t start as a lawyer in the UK. She left Poland at 18 with strong A-levels and worked hard to understand (and master) the UK system. As a nation, we’re richer for having more qualified individuals. We need to look at individual potential — Brexit would essentially set the visa bar at effectively mid-career professionals. This hardly invites motivated and youthful individuals willing to fully integrate and contribute!

-Whole Grain Wheat

Do you employ a number of EU workers or plan to move to the UK for work yourself? How do you think Brexit would affect you? Continue the conversation in the comments below.

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