By Maddie Grounds, Specialist Content Writer, London Solicitors UK, Immigration Advice Service (IAS) providers
Another day, another Brexit deal declined as the UK remains in a precarious state of uncertainty. With Theresa May yet again failing to acquire the support needed for her post-Brexit deal, the chance of a no-deal continues to creep closer to reality. Currently, the transport, logistics and haulage industries rely heavily on free movement for the smooth-running of their roles in supply chains and ease of travel. Yet with two months to go until the triggering of Article 50, many businesses and workers in these sectors are becoming increasingly concerned over severe work shortages if Britain fails to improve negotiations to allow EU migrants to travel across UK borders.
Under the proposed immigration White Paper, EU workers in these industries are set to face expensive visa requirements, lengthy documentation and complex applications in order to work in the UK. For employers and managers in the transport sector, after Brexit they will face having to fill a Sponsor Licence application form – which is described often as a long, costly and laborious process – in order to sponsor each of their future non-UK workers. Despite the Government’s promise to ensure this process will be “streamlined” after Brexit, the White Paper offers little clarity on how this process will be improved, nor does it suggest alternatives should the UK crash out of the EU without a deal.
There are an estimated 1.5 million employees working in the UK’s transport and logistics sector, contributing over £76.8 billion into the UK economy. However, Brexit presents potential staff shortages for the sector since EU employees will need to meet the requirements in order to apply for a Tier 2 Visa. Although the Government has announced they will be lifting the 20,700-annual cap of Tier 2 Visas in the immigration White Paper, this visa category requires applicants to pass an English language test as well as evidencing they have adequate money to support themselves in their personal savings. However, the prevailing problem with Tier 2 Work Visas across many UK businesses and industries is that applicants must earn a minimum of £30,000 a year in order to be eligible. For the transport sector, this threshold excludes many of the industry’s most valuable workers, bringing in a possible skills shortage and exacerbating a vacancy gap for an industry that cannot afford such losses. With major infrastructure projects coming up for the UK such as HS2, there is an even higher demand for engineers and technicians yet these roles are already classified as positions the UK is in shortage of on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List. As a result of Brexit, it is expected that vacancies will only grow over time.
With the value of these industries reaching into almost all sectors across the economy, maintaining the UK as an appealing destination to work is fundamental for the smooth-running of businesses. A Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report released last year detailed the invaluable benefits of overseas workers on the industry’s workforce . In staffing logistics roles, EU nationals make up 14% (43,000) of LGV drivers and 22% (19,000) of forklift truck drivers. Additionally, up to 20% of the railway industry’s workforce are from the EU, adopting a variety of labor and skilled roles including driving, signaling and delivering the UK’s transport infrastructure.
Strengthening the need for simple UK-EU border arrangements is the fact that the logistics and haulage sectors are currently experiencing a demographic crisis. With 63% of all HGV drivers being 45 or over and 14% of LGV drivers being due to retire in the next five years, the UK’s plans for stricter border arrangements could leave the haulage sector unable to fill vital delivery roles, especially with the world of online shopping dominating society’s buying habits.
According to Road Haulage Association (RHA) Chief Executive Richard Burnett, the Dover Strait currently handles 10,000 lorries a day. Warning about the length of times it will take to process each truck across the Channel he stated: ‘The queues of HGVs in Kent will make the jams seen in the summer of 2015 a little more than waiting for the traffic lights to change’.
With these changes likely to be a huge deterrent to those working in transport, haulage and logistic industries, the chance of a no-deal could be disastrous for the economy. Currently, 70% of food comes from the EU and 44% of all UK exports go to EU countries. Leaving the EU could see these figures decline, having a knock-on effect to the UK’s GDP.
EU workers are essential in filling the UK’s job shortages, ensuring smooth logistics and maintaining production both directly and through supply-chains. Whilst the future of a post-Brexit Britain continues to look unclear, the UK’s immigration system must ensure that overseas workers in trains, maritime, lorries and planes have the ability to move across UK-EU borders as simply and smoothly as possible.
For more information: www.iasservices.org.uk