Britain Told to Act Fast on EU Rights

  • EU nationals will be important source of labor as country ages
  • Transitional immigration system should be introduced

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The U.K. must speedily conclude an agreement to protect European Union nationals working in the country, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

The majority of Europeans living in Britain are young and come looking for jobs, the REC said in a report published Thursday. They’ll be an important source of labor as the country ages.

“Businesses need access to people to deliver growth,” said REC chief executive Kevin Green. “The current U.K. workforce alone cannot meet demand.”

The REC also said that a transitional immigration system should be introduced to allow for time to consult with business and the public. The post-Brexit system must take into account the need for the U.K. to retain its flexible labor market by, among other measures, introducing a temporary work visa to support the self-employed, small businesses and freelancers.

While Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to take the U.K. out of the EU’s single market to restrict migration, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond used a major speech this month to move the government’s focus to safeguarding jobs.

May has also been facing calls to abandon her target of bringing annual net migration below 100,000 after it was left out of the government’s latest legislative program. Brexit negotiations got off to a rocky start after European leaders rejected May’s proposals on the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K., as well as those of Britons living in the bloc.

With U.K. unemployment at its lowest level in four decades and skills shortages in many sectors, the government has an interest in maintaining some flexibility in immigration, the REC said.

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