Search

The ‘Thin Brexit’ jobs market



With the UK economy already heading towards choppy waters, a good EU trade deal is important for jobs. But after COVID-19, will there be many to go around?


With the UK economy already reeling from COVID-19, the British government is under pressure to secure a rudimentary deal by December 31 to prevent disruptions in UK-EU trade leading to further job losses. Industry leaders hope this will be the first of many post-Brexit agreements that will serve to enhance Britain's long-term trade prospects.


Unless or until an all-singing all-dancing trade agreement can be secured, the UK’s services sector will trade with the EEA on the basis of WTO rules. The financial services sector will rely on the European Commission granting the UK access to EEA markets, which in turn depends on it judging that the UK’s laws are equivalent to its own. Whilst this may run against the grain of what Brexit is 'for' (an independent trade policy and sovereignty), EU demands for a level playing field appear to be a red line.


Adding to domestic pressure, CBI research shows that 49% of employers in the UK will cut recruitment or freeze hiring entirely in 2021 in response to the economic uncertainties caused by COVID-19. “The UK labour market has been under acute stress since the outset of the COVID-19 crisis,” reports Matthew Fell, the CBI’s chief policy director. “Although the economy has started to reopen, pressure on firms remains acute.”


But while the UK jobs market is facing headwinds, some sectors are faring better than others. Analysis from recruitment magazine Onerec shows that there are now 77% more vacancies in logistics and warehouse roles than there were in January 2021. Cleaning and manufacturing jobs are also easier to come by than they were at the start of the year.


It’s worth noting that the UK’s hiring levels have recovered significantly since their low point in April 2020 and November’s Q3 GDP update registered an uptick of more than 15%. Onerec argues that recruitment levels could return to normal early next year. So, there are reasons to be cheerful for foreign nationals hoping to get a new job in the UK next year.


Yes, the jobs market will be competitive. And for EU nationals used to the idea of being able to simply turn up and hunt for a job, this will be a painful period of regret - but the drawbridge has not been raised entirely. Yes - there will be more hoops to jump through. But from a global perspective, UK PLC is now open for business to all talents no matter where they are - there are no special privileges for any nation or economic bloc. For those that wish to come to the UK to build a life, there are still opportunities for the best and brightest.