UK prices to rise if EU nationals leave UK post-Brexit
As UK consumers deal with rising inflation, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned of further significant inflation ahead due to Brexit uncertainty affecting workers from EU countries. And it has also said there could be major staffing problems on the horizon.
The trade body has surveyed its members about the situation at their own businesses. It said 22% of them are already seeing staff returning to mainland Europe due to lack of clarity around their status and right to work and live in Britain after Brexit in March 2019.
This could cause severe disruption if it accelerates as well as meaning retailers may need to spend more on staffing as they chase a smaller pool of workers.
Another issue rarely mentioned so far is that if large nurse of workers leave the country and the non-British population is reduced, then the spending population will also be cut.
Around 170,000 EU nationals are currently employed in British retail. That’s 6% of the total. But the potential to devastate stores in key urban locations, particularly central London, is even bigger. Many luxury and fashion stores have a high percentage of multi-lingual continental staff due both to the appeal of working in London for these people and the retailers’ need for staff who speak their customers’ languages.
The BRC said that if more of such workers were to leave, it would not only affect service in-store. EU staff working in warehouses and in distribution could also damage store deliveries and e-shopping.
The retail body is calling for a post-Brexit immigration system that doesn’t only prioritise groups like graduates but is “demand led” and allows-in workers based on industry needs.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The UK's decision to leave the EU has created uncertainty, not only for business, but for the people from the EU they employ.
"These are real people with families, livelihoods and homes in this country. It is not right that 16 months after the referendum these people still don't have the security they need to continue their lives.
"And from our data it is clear that unless we have the right structures in place to support retailers attract, recruit and retain workers, consumers will soon start to see and feel an impact as they shop."
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