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Sharp fall in migration from Eastern Europe means many firms will face a very different post-Brexit labour market

The sharp fall in net migration since the referendum shows that businesses relying on migrant workers should prepare for a very different labour market, the Resolution Foundation said in response to the latest net migration figures published today (Thursday).

The latest figures show that the 84,000 fall in migration was led by a rising number of EU nationals leaving the UK – particularly those from the A8 countries, such as Poland. This change is taking place well ahead of the introduction of any stricter controls on immigration once Britain leaves the EU, which could further contribute to a big shift in the availability of labour in the coming years.

The Foundation says that businesses must prepare for this shift by rethinking their recruitment and training policies, and where possible increasing investment. For firms heavily reliant on migrant labour, some, such as those in the agriculture and food manufacturing sector, will continue to need migrant labour, while others, such as hospitality, may need to rethink their business models.

The Foundation adds that in return the main parties should fixate less about overall migration targets and focus instead on what their post-Brexit migration policy will be. Crucially, they should say what it would mean for Britain’s labour market, something which will impact on workers irrespective of their nationality.

Stephen Clarke, Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said:

“The sharp fall in migration since the referendum shows that British businesses need to start preparing now for a big shift in the labour market, even before we leave the EU.

“Rising emigration among EU nationals, particularly from Eastern Europe, means that many firms would be wise to rethink their investment, recruitment and training policies.

“What businesses also need during this election campaign is far more clarity from political parties about what their post-Brexit migration policy will be. The choices we make about post-Brexit Britain’s approach to migration will mean a fundamental shift in the way many run their business – the time to start preparing for that is now.”

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