Pro-Brexit Business Magnate Says UK Needs More Immigrant Labor

Photo credit: Chris Yunker/Flickr)

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Between its revolving-door government and worsening energy crunch, the UK wakes up to a new crisis nearly every day. And hey, did you catch former health minister Matt Hancock appearing on the reality TV show I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here? And just when things seem like they couldn’t get worse, an old political wound is opening.

Lord Simon Wolfson, CEO of retailer Next and a vocal Brexiteer, told the BBC he believes the UK is struggling with a labor shortage and needs more immigrant workers and concluded: “it’s definitely not the Brexit that I wanted.” At least 49% of the population would agree.

Belated Brexit Ripples

The UK left the EU on January 31, 2020, but the economic impact of Brexit flew largely under the radar due to the pandemic. Now it’s becoming incrementally and painfully obvious that Brexit is contributing to the UK’s woes.

Before 2020 up to 430,000 EU citizens a year got UK work visas, compared to 43,000 in 2021. But immigration is not the only Brexit-related economic blow-back:

  • The UK’s post-lockdown era trade recovery has been markedly flat compared to the rest of the G7. Contrary to cutting up Brussels red tape, as was promised by the Brexiteers, Brexit had increased bureaucracy and made trade with EU nations hard, small business owners told the Financial Times.
  • The financial sector is also getting a case of the Brexit blues. Jerome Kemp, a former executive at global investment bank Citi told Bloomberg in late October that derivatives trading is shifting out of London towards EU neighbors, particularly France and Germany. “The reality of Brexit is starting to bite on market infrastructure,” Kemp said.

On the bright side: Britain and the EU appear to be inching closer to an agreement over how Northern Ireland, which shares a border with EU member state Ireland, can conduct trade. Let’s hope the luck of the Irish can carry it over the line.