Article / 27 June 2016 at 13:08 GMT

Brexit shock to spark 'Brecruitment' nightmare, talent brain drain

First in Business Worldwide. /
  • The UK will now have to engage in a two-year negotiation process to exit the EU
  • The uncertainty of this process is the main issue for businesses and the economy
  • Some young Britons will decide to leave the UK permanently
  • The vote result turns European colleagues in the UK into immigrants
  • EU nationals may now be reluctant to apply for jobs in the UK


The shock result of the UK referendum on its future in the European Union has thrust the region into renewed uncertainty. One area of concern is how Brexit will impact job recruitment. 

Many businesses are concerned about what the result, in which the vote to leave won 51.9% of support, will mean for their staff.

 Talent flight ... the Brexit vote has not only separated Britain from Europe; it has also split families and left younger Britons considering emigration. Photo: iStock

"The result is shocking and it's a sad day for the UK," Mark Mitchell, CEO of recruitment specialist Meridian Business Support, said in a statement. "The result makes us appear to be less friendly and tolerant and has turned many of our workforce into official immigrants [rather] than colleagues – this will have a detrimental effect on staffing."

EU nationals may now be nervous and reluctant to apply for jobs in the UK, warned Siân Goodson, managing director of executive search and corporate insight business Goodson Thomas. "My concern is to what extent will we now be able to attract EU candidates for prestigious roles in the UK?" she said in a statement to CNBC.

"It wasn't an easy ask previously because of how the different member states' education systems were set up and because of the various EU rules and regulations, but it was always an option to include EU candidates in our listings."

Young voters take flight

The result could prove to be highly divisive. Several young people took to social media Friday to express their disappointment with the decision and considered emigrating, while UK nationals working abroad pledged not to return.

"I'll be staying in Spain now. Maybe elsewhere in Europe beyond that. But not the United Kingdom," Joey Vaughan, a bar manager from Kent working in Spain, told CNBC via email.
The main issue for businesses and the economy is uncertainty, as the UK will now have to engage in a two-year negotiation process to exit the EU.

"One possible scenario is that in order to retain access to the single market, the UK would have to continue to accept the free movement of people from the EU. In this case little would change," Ian Dowd, director at NGA Human Resources, told CNBC via email.


Post-Brexit vote uncertainty about future work visa restrictions has left UK recruiters confused about whether they can recruit talent from Europe. Photo: iStock

Recruitment restrictions likely

"Another scenario would see restrictions of some kind on EU citizens, which could make it harder for some Europeans to work in the UK."

Small and medium-sized businesses will likely find it harder to recruit post-Brexit, according to Eugene Mizin, CEO and co-founder of recruitment app Job Today.

"Access to talent will tighten, as fewer EU foreigners will enter Britain's workforce, which will drive up hiring costs," he told CNBC in an email. "As economic outlooks remain unclear, SMEs will look to spend less on recruiting and think twice before spending hundreds of pounds on job boards. Instead, SMEs will increasingly turn to referral and word of mouth hiring."

Other business leaders were less concerned and focused on the underlying strength of the UK economy.

"There will undoubtedly be short-term uncertainty in the labor market but the foundations of the UK economy remain strong and we remain confident that UK based business will continue to attract and retain talent from within UK and beyond its borders," Lee Rankin, managing director at recruitment firm GEM Partnership told CNBC via email.

However, rather than experiencing a brain drain of talent, the UK economy could become a more agile and attractive place to work.

"It depends on what path the UK takes – talent goes where the opportunity is, and Europe is the world's slowest growing continent, largely due to EU economic policies," Harrison Wright, managing director of Affinity Biotechnology, which specializes in biotech recruitment, told CNBC via email.

"If the UK takes the opportunity to make itself more attractive for business and easier for skilled workers around the world to immigrate, we will see the opposite of a brain drain."

CNBC is a recognised world leader in business news, providing real-time financial market coverage and business information to more than 340 million homes worldwide. Visit for more financial news and information.

– Edited by Robert Ryan


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