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Brexit and immigration: How worried should workers be?

Luna Williams

Over the past 10 years, the UK’s construction sector has become increasingly dependent upon talent from the European Union, with EU migrants now making up just under 10 per cent of the industry’s workforce, according to recent reports from RICS. 

With Brexit negotiations now well under way, discussions about transforming immigration laws are raging on and there seems to be a growing sense of unease within the construction workforce. There have been mutterings of large-scale job losses, huge skill gaps and even a new type of digital visa system.

Working at a law firm which specialises in immigration advice and support, I see first hand the confusion such surfacing rumours are causing.

EU citizens who have been living and working in the UK for several years, particularly those working in industries such as construction, are suddenly unsure of what to expect from their futures. Meanwhile other workers, employers and investors are concerned about the damage changes to laws will have upon the industry as a whole.

State of play

So what do we actually know?

While it is unclear what Brexit will definitely mean for EU migrants in the UK, there are some conclusions we can reasonably draw that might help to shed some light on the situation.

According to a leaked Home Office document, the UK’s immigration laws will be transformed in a three stage-plan: before, during and after the UK leaves the EU.

“It is important to remember that nothing is going to be immediate; there is still time in which those worried about their positions will be able to equip themselves”

The final stage, after Brexit, is currently set to span over two years and is being named ‘the implementation period’. As you might have guessed, this period is going to be used to implement the new laws drawn up after the negotiations.

Accordingly, it is important to remember that nothing is going to be immediate; there is still time in which those worried about their positions will be able to equip themselves.

Bracing for Brexit

During this time, those who are considered skilled workers – such as plumbers, carpenters or welders – may be required to apply for a Tier 2 (General) Visa. There is also talk of a new digital register, which those already working and residing in the UK will be able to apply for in order to be granted ‘leave to remain’ in their positions and granted settled status in the UK.

Of course, more definitive answers will emerge in the next few years and we should bear this in mind when speculating.

In the meantime, for those who are concerned: remember there is time to prepare and plenty of resources to provide support. 

Luna Williams is a correspondent and content writer at law firm Immigration Advice Services

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