Expert warns of brain drain after “Hard Brexit”

19 May 2017

As a “No Deal”-Brexit becomes increasingly likely, tech and health sector could face massive problems in recruiting EU graduates.

Dinner conversations usually do not make headlines. However, an informal talk between the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May about Brexit was different. After an account of their meeting at Downing Street appeared in the German press the words allegedly exchanged between the two have shaped political conversations over the last weeks. One key message: the leader of the Conservative party appears willing to go for a hard Brexit that might even question the visa status of EU nationals currently living in the United Kingdom.

“If this happens, a brain drain for the U.K. might be inevitable”, says Jonathan Wadsworth, Professor at the London School of Economics. Wadsworth, who is one of the authors of the report “Brexit and the Impact of Immigration on the UK”, thinks that even highly skilled EU nationals might struggle to get a visa. This means that sectors that rely on non UK workers such as the tech industry and health sector might be affected.

In the case of a hard Brexit it’s possible that EU nationals would fall under the same laws as current non-EU nationals. This means that they would have to earn a minimum of £30,000 per year to be allowed to stay permanently. A salary that most graduate jobs do not offer at the entry level as the most recent “Graduate Labour Market Statistics”-report shows. The median salary for graduates is £25,000 per year, for post-graduates it is £29,000 per year.

While in the case of freshly graduated foreign students, they are normally given five years to hit this cap, the insecurity that comes with this policy might scare off new talents. “Taken together with the stop of EU funding and a smaller likelihood of Pan- European projects, the tech and health sector might be affected a lot more than expected”, says Wadsworth.

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