The Impact of Brexit on Somerset Business

What will be the impact of Brexit on Somerset Businesses?

Now that the shock of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union has passed, we are entering a period of recriminations and finger pointing – but that too will pass and soon both the UK and Europe will have to put their heads together and work out how any future relationship will look.

Of all areas of law, Employment is one of those that have been influenced most by decisions and legislation from Europe. Brexit will, therefore, have some significant effects on Business in Somerset – but not today and probably not for the next couple of years while we decide which of the current laws work and which can be scrapped; either because they are just not fit for purpose or because they are uncompetitive in a thriving free-market economy.

IMMIGRATION

Of most importance is the question of immigration and it was on this ticket that the Brexit campaign without doubt succeeded.

Being a member of the EU club meant that all citizens of the 28 member countries had (mainly) unfettered access to look for a job in any other EU country and to work there without the need for any type of permit. Whilst this benefited all countries, the poorer states, especially those from eastern Europe, took advantage of the rule and went to look for work in the richest countries. Conversely, and the UK is a prime example of this, the richer states used this influx of relatively cheap labour to boost their economies, post recession, and did very well out of it – thank you very much.

The issue was that good economic practice and the social impact on the ground clashed and in areas such a Peterborough with large immigrant (eastern European) communities caused significant anti-European feeling.
What is now likely to happen is that the UK will have a points based system to allow in the staff needed to help run the economy – both top and bottom end – and there will be no shortage of people, perhaps from the Commonwealth who would love to work here either on a temporary or permanent basis. More Kiwis serving in west London pubs I foresee.

Those European citizens already here and working are unlikely to be affected. Some will move back to their countries of origin others will stay and ultimately become UK citizens. Those without work will find themselves without any means of support and will have little choice but to leave and find better prospects in one of the 27 remaining countries.

ANTI-COMPETITIVENESS AND ANTI-BUSINESS

Some EU law is viewed as anti-competitive and stymies business growth and is likely to go. The Transfer of Undertaking Regulations (TUPE) and Working Time Regulations (WTR) were two that really did cause consternation; why should our workers not be able to work longer hours to make more stuff? However, having said this, some of these regulations were watered down sufficiently to make little difference in the long run and there is evidence that the Germans are still more efficient in their fewer working hours.

Laws such as the Agency Regulations are likely to go quickly – making it easier to fill gaps in the workforce without, in effect, taking on a fully protected, permanent employee.

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