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This Week in Europe: Brexit, the UK & tech talent

24 hours ago, the United Kingdom released their Policy paper on the future skills-based immigration system.

Directly from their site: “The future skills-based immigration system white paper sets out the government's plans to introduce a new single immigration system, ending free movement.”

Ouch.

Here are some thoughts on it, and how it can affect UK tech companies looking to hire talent in the future.

The Good

  • It’s the end of the Resident Labour Market Test. Before this policy, you had to advertise any job for 4 weeks to check if somebody in the UK wants or is able to do it. This was a pointless bureaucracy that slowed down the hiring process.
  • No cap on visas. Theoretically, this means continued access to the EU talent pool, which many UK companies have got used to.

That's it.

The Ugly

  • There’s a £30,000 salary threshold. In theory, this make sense because the UK wants to limit immigration to skilled workers. But salary is a suboptimal measure of ‘migrant quality’, and some industries will get hit hard.
  • That same £30,000 salary threshold puts young talent – migrants who are most likely to integrate, and be long-term contributors to the society and economy – in a pinch because starting salaries (and internships) in tech companies usually are way below that.
  • Visa sponsorship has to be applied for AFTER an offer is made to the candidate. This is plain stupid. It means that UK employers (and migrants) risk going through a process, only to be potentially refused at the end of that same process. This gives ZERO forecasting ability, for companies and migrants, so if they have opportunities elsewhere (as highly skilled talent does), they will avoid it.

I think here the end result is clear: London will maintain their #1 position as Europe’s top tech city, but will slowly fade away as some countries (France?) get smarter about immigration.

Migration will occur, but it will be highly skilled jobs that migrate OUT rather than highly skilled workers migrating IN. EU tech professionals will rule out London as option, and move torwards Berlin, Paris or Amsterdam. This means less skills for the UK, less tax for Treasury, less consumption for the economy and less competitive startups.

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