Despite the fact there’s just a matter of weeks left until the June 23rd referendum when Britain decides whether or not to remain a part of the European Union, much of the HR profession remain uncertain about the implications of either potential outcome. The two opposing campaigns both claim to have statistics and forecasts to justify their argument, but with so much ambiguity it’s hard to gauge the true implications of a vote to leave the bloc.
The cross party ‘vote leave’ campaign, spearheaded by senior Conservative Michael Gove and former London Mayer Boris Johnson, maintain that Britain’s trade relationship with Europe and the rest of the world would remain unchanged, and that the UK potentially stands benefit from a newfound ability to negotiate its own deals with the World Trade Organisation. However Lord Rose’s ‘stronger in’ campaign, which has received backing from both the Conservative and Labour party leaders, argues that a vote to leave would be exceptionally detrimental to the economy.
One of the cornerstones of the Brexit campaign is that the UK’s estimated £12.9bn contribution to the EU budget outweighs the benefits of membership, conversely the Confederation of British Industry estimates that the net benefit of EU membership is in the region of 4-5% of GDP, which equates to between £62bn-£78bn. Without any accurate and reliable facts it’s incredibly hard to predict the real economic impact of EU membership, and what implications a vote to leave would have on the economy and our trade relationships with other nations.
The direct impact that a vote to leave would have on the staffing sector is also far from certain. Recent figures indicate that 6.8% of the UK workforce are EU nationals, up from 4.8% three years ago. A study conducted by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory indicates that three quarters of EU nationals currently working in Britain would not meet the criteria applicable to Non-EU workers. While immigration policy would likely be one of the first items on the agenda should the UK vote to leave the EU, without any indication of what new requirements might be, and how they may effect international talent pools, it’s no wonder the HR profession remains largely uncertain about which campaign to vote for.
Many HR professionals have also raised the issue of whether existing EU employment laws, such as the Agency Workers Regulation, would be amended in the instance of a departure from Brussels. Thought there has been speculation over amendments to working visa requirements, or a points based system similar to that of Australia, there has been little focus on employment law by either campaign, no doubt a contributing factor the confusion expressed by many in the profession.
Aside from highly presumptive forecasts, of which there have been many, there appears to be very little base to base a judgement on. Though we can’t expect economic and political commentators to be able to accurately predict the outcome of such an unprecedented event, it’s somewhat unsurprising that in the absence of any quantifiable ‘facts’ many voters are still uncertain about which way to lean. There is a certain degree of ambiguity surrounding long term implications of either outcome. However I have no doubt that the HR and recruitment professions will adapt to the new challenges, shifts in working practices and increased form filling that a vote to leave would likely present.