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Closed border policy: How small businesses can prepare for the end of EU citizens’ free movement

2 minute read

how small businesses can prepare for the end of EU citizens free movement

In March 2019, if all goes ahead, the free movement of labour from the EU to the UK will cease in alignment with the conclusion of Brexit talks. Even amongst bickering experts, the shapeless and ill-prepared plan for Brexit can be difficult to fully cognise. But despite its nebulous quality, the tangible effects of Brexit will still eventually come into play, meaning that advanced considerations and preparations should be brought to the table sooner rather than later.

The inscrutability of Brexit as a whole due to foggy leadership and communication can easily undermine SME owners’ confidence with regards to planning and navigation, inspiring a passive suspension of forethought and planning. We’re all still awaiting the disclosure of a clear post-Brexit immigration strategy.

In the liminal stage of Brexit, these concerns are probably something that many would rather sweep under the rug in a state of languor until forced to deal with the effects. However, blaming the symptomatology of an unclear Brexit (and unclear leadership) as an excuse for avoiding future planning is something that SMEs simply cannot afford to do. Unveiling the potential challenges and solutions leading up to the forthcoming policy is paramount.

Many businesses rely on pools of talent from the EU, and proposals from the government to enforce stricter limits on work permits will mean that lower skilled EU migrants will be given a maximum residency of two years. As for EU workers who are highly-skilled, they can receive permits that last from three to five years. While this hasn’t been concretely confirmed, the government has had long ambitions of wanting to reduce the net migration figure to below 100,000. The situation moving forward still isn’t clear, especially with regards to the cutoff dates for EU citizens who want to remain in the UK.

If supply falls, and costs increase, small business could be affected negatively. Small business, therefore, may end up having to:

  • Spend more on recruitment
  • Offer more competitive pay to obtain the best talent
  • Downsize the business
  • Review the recruitment process to attract British talent

Hiking prices up for consumers due to pressure on the costs of labour and materials is also a major concern.

So how can SMEs respond to the looming 2019 closed border policy?

The most obvious ways SMEs can prepare is to:

  • Invest in skills-based training for current employees
  • Offer comprehensive training such as apprenticeships for new British employees including school and university leavers (skills gained in education and skills needed for work are not in alignment)

As a small business, what are your plans for dealing with the upcoming closed border policy? Leave us a comment on social media.

Rosie is a qualified Journalist, NCTJ certified, and is currently an MSt student in Literature and Arts at Oxford University. Having worked in editing, communications, and brand strategy in agencies in Seoul and London, she is passionate about producing intelligent writing with practical and creative value. Previously a Content Editor and Writer at the UK Domain.

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