Brexit: Consciously uncoupling from the EU


Part 1: Using EU workers

The clock is ticking, and British business is facing an uncertain future. We see businesses trying to understand their reliance on a changing EU relationship, whether that be through importing or exporting of goods, potential price sensitivities within that chain and, in certain sectors, a reliance on EU workers.  In some cases, the tax aspects of parent/subsidiary relationships with  European head offices is also a cause of uncertainty, as is the fluid movement of staff between the organisations.

Although many businesses have clarity on which countries they trade directly with, many will not have considered the dependence of their supply chains on the EU or fully understand the impact of Brexit on their workforce.

Recent research from the Social Market Fund (SMF) and Adecco confirms that UK businesses have a significant reliance on EU workers, with an estimated 1.6 million EU workers currently employed in the UK public or private sectors, making up an estimated 6% of all UK employees.

Whilst EU workers support many growing industries across the UK, there is a higher percentage of EU labour in specific sectors such as manufacturing (10% of employees) and accommodation and food services (14% of employees). EU employees represent 14% of those fundamental roles we need in organisations such as labourers, cleaners, and shelf-fillers, and interestingly they also represent 13% of process, plant and machine operatives, all roles that have been hard for employers to fill.  With a heavy manufacturing presence in Lancashire, this could have a huge impact on these businesses and a knock on effect for the wider economy.

Shift in our regional workforce

This reliance of many Lancashire based businesses on EU employees will have to start to shift over the next two years.  In fact, many businesses are already seeing a slow down in EU workers wanting to come to the UK.   In addition, not only will Brexit affect the residence status and right to work of EU nationals working in the UK, but it will also impact those UK nationals working in the EU.

At the moment, we don’t have all the answers to predict the full impact of Brexit, but as the Government battles out trade talks over the next two years, it’s important that UK businesses understand their risk, and use this pre-Brexit period to build resilience and agility.

By using Brexit as a catalyst for change, you can cement your business’s future. We can share our Brexit experience with you, after all we are getting Brexit ready too. If you would like to discuss with us about any issues raised in this article, then please contact Jane Parry on 01254 679131, or email