Prospect’s EU national members in the Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) and heritage industries have expressed concern about what the future holds for them in a new survey.
The survey of 650 EU nationals working in the UK reveals they are still no clearer on the government’s position than before the UK formally entered into Brexit negotiations.
Nearly 70% of respondents said they are thinking of leaving the country compared to earlier in the year when 11% of Prospect’s science members were planning on leaving the UK because of Brexit.
A huge 79% of respondents also reported feeling less welcome than they did a year ago. Members reported feeling “betrayed”, “unwanted” and “becoming a foreigner in a country” they were previously welcomed into.
One member said: “The government’s neglect of the human element in this situation is deeply unfair and has caused many a sleepless night for me and my family.”
This highly-skilled group of workers, which includes archaeologists, vets, scientists and engineers, are part of a delicate system which relies on free movement of people.
Prospect launched the results of the survey at a meeting for EU nationals in Westminster this evening.
Sue Ferns, Prospect deputy general secretary, said:
“Our feedback shows that the government is squandering the UK’s reputation as an attractive place for foreign talent.
“It also highlights a fundamental misunderstanding of the modern work environment in which skilled and specialist workers can choose where to live and work, but they do not do so in isolation.
“The UK’s future migration regime must not be about erecting barriers to free movement but about ensuring continued access to the skills needed for economic success and the public good.”
Earlier this month the government outlined more details on how the application process for the new ‘settled status’ might work, once the UK leaves the EU. They have committed to an improved streamlined process, but sadly much crucial information is still missing – such as details on family members and how periods away from the UK will impact on the qualifying five year period needed for settled status.
Sue Ferns continued: “Prospect welcomes the streamlined process at a reduced cost, but our members need further clarity.
"The government must get the detail right otherwise rather than reassuring EU nationals this might just create greater uncertainty."
Prospect highlighted the knock on effects of this uncertainty in its response to the Migration Advisory Committee call for evidence on the social and economic impact of Brexit.
Tangible consequences could include a smaller pool of talent applying to do PhDs and support roles. These roles are not highly paid, but are part of a finely balanced eco-system which could be thrown out of kilter if the migration process does not remain smooth and streamlined.
Prospect’s survey found that 39% of respondents were earning less than £30,000 and would not qualify to work in the UK, if the same earnings threshold applied to them as it does to non EU-nationals.
For example, a shortage of archaeologists, whose pay is typically between £18,000 and £27,000 per annum, could result in a delay to house-building programmes and major infrastructure projects.