FEATURE17 October 2019

European ambitions: is the UK heading for Brexit brain drain?

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Will industry in the UK experience ‘brain drain’ after leaving the EU, and could European labour markets benefit as a result? Katie McQuater takes a look.


Freedom of movement, one of the most fundamental pillars of EU membership, has allowed citizens of countries in the bloc to live and work seamlessly wherever they wish. It has also been one of the key aspects of the Brexit debate since the beginning. 

For UK businesses, there are concerns over how post-Brexit changes to immigration law could impact the UK’s talent pool and skills in key sectors such as finance, health and technology. Employers in the UK could face tougher competition as other EU countries experience a positive effect on their labour markets. 

ONS migration statistics from August 2019 point to immigration from the EU declining since 2016, although there are more EU citizens moving to the UK than leaving – with the exception of those from EU8 countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

As with many issues surrounding the departure from the EU, the question of how immigration policy will be affected remains foggy and many EU citizens have been in ...