Everyone should read the Migration Advisory Committee’s first report into the UK labour market and Brexit to dispel some dangerous myths


Despite the atmosphere of fear created in the Brexit debate:

  • European workers in general do NOT take British jobs.
  • They do NOT drive down wages or undercut minimum wages.
  • They are less inclined to come to the UK in the current climate.
  • Our economy is set to suffer if fewer arrive to work here.
  • This could also lead to shrinking populations in some regions of the UK.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) interim report into the effects of Brexit on immigration commissioned by Home Secretary Amber Rudd is out today. And their research has found that some sectors are already struggling to recruit and retain EEA workers.

“Those problems have arisen really without any change, as yet, to migration policy,” the report finds, as clearly people from the European Economic Area (EEA) – the EU Member States and Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway – have other countires they can choose to work in.

“Some sectors are currently experiencing difficulties in recruiting and retaining EEA migrants… Migrants have a choice,” the MAC chairman Professor Alan Manning warns, and it “cannot be taken for granted they will choose to come to the UK.”

In July 2017, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd commissioned the MAC to report on the current and likely future patterns of EEA migration and the impacts of that migration on the UK.
The intention is to provide an evidence base for the design of a new post-Brexit migration system.

Their interim report out today from research and interviews with over 400 businesses and industry bodies, makes some pretty salient points.

UK businesses are “fearful” about what a post-Brexit immigration system may look like, as the points based system for non-EEA workforce is already difficult to negotiate.

On top of that, interest from workers from the EEA is beginning to drop off.

The first official inquiry into the immigration needs of the British labour market also finds that British employers find workers from the EEA “more reliable” and more willing to work long, unsociable hours and on a flexible basis.

Interestingly, on average EEA migrants do NOT bring wages down for the indigenous British labour force according to the report. For more skilled jobs, wages actually increase, though for the lowest paid jobs, EEA workers do bring wages down.

“We found no evidence that EEA migrants are more likely than the UK-born to be paid less than the minimum wage,” says the report. And crucially: “these pay gaps do not imply that EEA migration has reduced the wages of the UK born.

“The UK has experienced a period of declining real wages in recent years, the worst decade according to some estimates for over 200 years. The timing of this seems more closely linked to the financial crisis than the expansion of the EU in 2004, and has affected UK-born workers of all skill levels, not just those in lower-skilled jobs where the increases in EEA migration have been concentrated.”

The main troubling find for the Government will be the expected hit to the economy of stopping freedom of movement across the EEA.

The Committe – periodically consulted by the Home Office in reframing immigration legislation, also found that most employers do not deliberately seek  migrant workers to fill roles, but hire EEA migrants when they are “the best” or only available candidates for the job.

“Employers do not think of themselves as employing EEA migrants because they are cheaper” the report concludes, but “because EEA workers are higher quality or are prepared to do work that British workers are not.”

The main reasons given by employers as to why EEA workers are employed, also include to fill skills shortage, for higher productivity, perceived willingness to work under worse conditions and as low unemployment has created a shortage of UK workers.

Lower migration to the UK will “very likely lead to lower growth” the analysis concluded.

The population in some parts of the UK could shrink if net immigration from the EEA ends, analysis has found too. If there is zero net EEA migration, parts of northern England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will lose population growth and could even suffer actual falls in population, the report warns.

Vanessa Ganguin, partner of Immigration solicitors Ganguin Samartin,  told The London Economic: “It is great to see more sound analysis from the Migration Advisory Committee and I hope the Government takes note when formulating post-Brexit immigration policies. Clarity for EEA-people living in the UK can’t come soon enough. As the interim report points out, employers in the UK also need clarity urgently if they are to plan ahead.

“The main points that I really hope get reported and start to drive the debate and policy making on Brexit are that EEA employees are not taking jobs away from Brits, they are in fact driving our economy in jobs many British people do not want to do, or adding to the intellectual wealth of our nation.

“The more welcoming we are to our European friends, the less intimidating to UK employers a new immigration system is, the more we can signal to the world that Britain is staying open for business.”

Labour MP David Lammy said: “Instead of taking jobs away from people living in the UK already, immigration helps to stimulate our economy.

“After Brexit we’re facing down the barrel of slower growth and, crucially, fewer jobs available. It might be politically unpopular, but the truth is that our economy needs migrants to fill the jobs that Brits won’t do or lack to the skills to do.”


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