Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 23rd August 2019
Changing immigration rules so that EU nationals can no longer live and work in the UK indefinitely would have a significant impact on small businesses across the country.
That’s according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which is concerned that a No Deal Brexit might be followed immediately by an end to immigration rules that have long been beneficial to many of its members.
The FSB says that one in five small employers in the UK rely on EU citizens as employees, while one in three are already finding it tough to get the staff they need to operate and grow as they’d like to.
Another major concern for the FSB is that if a No Deal Brexit scenario were to happen later this year then that would leave small businesses with very little time to prepare themselves for a radically different immigration and employment landscape.
“A sudden end to free movement on November 1st will make a bad situation worse,” said the FSB’s national chairman Mike Cherry in a statement.
“Business owners need time to prepare for such a radical change, particularly as 95 per cent of small employers have no experience of using the points-based element of our immigration system.”
Mr Cherry points out that if there were to be no deal with Brussels before the UK left the EU then employers would suddenly need to distinguish between EU nationals who are legally regarded as official residents in Britain and those that aren’t.
There are estimated to be around two million EU citizens currently living in the UK without settled status and a very sizable proportion of those people are employed by small businesses.
“Looking to the future, small business owners have been left without any sense of what our immigration system will look like post-Brexit,” Mr Cherry said.
“Clarity and guidance is needed. It’s vital that the voice of the small firms that make-up 99 per cent of our business community is heard as that new system is formed.”