UK at risk of Brexit brain
drain, warns ACCA
WITH the UK government seemingly
committed to sacrificing freedom of movement in pursuit of a 'hard' Brexit, ACCA
(the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) has warned that the country
could face a 'brain drain' of top professionals.
Sterling has taken another dramatic fall following policy announcements at last
week's Conservative Party conference and ACCA says that the business community
must take a firm position on explaining the potential harms that stringent
immigration restrictions could have on the British economy for many years ahead.
Anthony Walters, ACCA's head of policy for Western Europe, says that while
governmental focus on skills and training for UK citizens is welcome, it is
wrong to side line freedom of movement from its economic strategy. "It is no secret that there is a shortage of skilled workers in many
sectors and specialism's, particularly in the STEM related areas. This challenge
has been mitigated in part by access to skilled labour from other parts of the
world, particularly from the EU. However, with the UK's imminent departure from
the EU the challenge to business of accessing highly skilled and specialist
talent could be further exacerbated.
The drive towards apprenticeships as a way of skilling up young people and
opening new pathways into professional careers, such as accountancy, is a step
in the right direction. But it will take time for the next generation of highly
skilled talent to hit the workforce, and restrictions to movement may well
prevent UK businesses from benefiting from a global talent pool in the here and
Anthony Walters also thinks that there is a risk that the current debate
overlooks the potential for 'brain drain' as the UK's top talent seek
opportunity in other, more stable economies,
There is a risk that talent could leave or be poached from the UK as we enter
into an extended period of limbo whilst the UK seeks to reinvent itself post-Brexit.
Consultation with our members and students indicates that they are much more
willing to work globally than ever before; we saw a spike in enquiries from
British citizens looking to live and work in Australia, New Zealand and Canada
in the weeks that followed the Brexit vote.
Given the criteria for securing a
working visa in those countries it is certainly conceivable that it would be
some of the UK's more highly skilled workers who will be seeking opportunities
in other parts of the world thus potentially creating the beginnings of a brain
Recruitment specialist Robert Half reported
has demand this,
already outstripping supply for key accountancy and finance positions, so even a
relatively small exodus of talent could have significant consequences.
Anthony Walters also argues that this is not just a problem for traders at
leading City banks, but will lead to a potential drain of talent and experience
from across the UK's professions,
This is not just a problem confronting London based multinational firms. This
affects other major UK finance sectors, such as Edinburgh and Cardiff, and many
others areas whose local economies thrive from world leading UK success in
industries such as pharmaceuticals, IT, popular culture and design
An example is the higher education sector, where fears of loss of research
funding may see UK universities struggling to attract or retain the best staff
to carry out the research that drives knowledge discovery and supports the
reputation of UK higher education through the international league tables.
Anthony Walters, however, does believe that the Government is on the right path
in targeting productivity, but that it must show patience with its new
► Productivity; remains a huge challenge for the UK economy.
► Productivity has
failed to recover from the 2008 crisis and today output per hour in the UK is
25% lower than in Germany, the US and France.
► There has been no post recession
bounce in productivity.
► To contextualise if the UK's pre-financial crisis trend
had continued, productivity today would be more than 16% higher.
► Wages and
living standards would be substantially higher than today; the importance of
productivity should therefore not be underestimated; particularly as Parliament
looks to build an economy that works for all.
If we are to compete globally we need to go back to basics. This week Michael
Heseltine called for the new industrial strategy to start in primary schools
and he has a valid point. If we are to nurture the highly skilled talent that
the UK will need to thrive in an increasingly competitive global environment
then we need to ensure that schools are suitably resourced to provide children
with the right foundations.
Without investment in technology, in training and development and, of course
education, productivity is unlikely to rise by any significant degree.
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