Brexit has created shortage of 330,000 workers in UK, say economists

Press quote (The Independent)
John Springford, Jonathan Portes
17 January 2023

Post-Brexit immigration rules have led to a shortfall of around 330,000 workers in the UK, according to top economists.

The ending of free movement is “contributing significantly” to current labour shortages, a joint report by the UK in a Changing Europe and the Centre for European Reform think-tanks has found.


The study found the low-skilled sectors – including hospitality, retail, construction and transportation – had been badly hit by the loss of EU workers after Brexit.

By September 2022 there was a significant shortfall of around 460,000 EU-origin workers, not wholly compensated for by a rise in about 130,000 non-EU workers, the report said.

“Overall, the new system is working broadly as Leave advocates promised,” said co-authors Prof Jonathan Portes and John Springford.

The authors said the system was “too onerous to compensate for the loss of free movement in low-skilled sectors of the economy, which is contributing to labour shortages”.

The new Brexit report’s co-authors said the major changes in migration patterns were “a feature, not a bug” of leaving the EU, adding: “The longer-term impact on the UK labour market will be profound.”

The think tanks said businesses struggling with labour shortages could invest in greater automation. “But some combination of higher wages and prices, and less output is likely, especially in work that is hard to automate,” the report warned.