Posted by Claus Andersen, Partner
Royds Withy King provides input into the CBI’s report on post-brexit immigration policies
Being able to attract the right talent is hugely important to our clients, to our firm and to the wider legal industry. Our clients’ employees and our own lawyers and support staff are recruited from inside and outside the UK, including from the EU and other overseas countries.
Any changes to the current immigration rules which make it harder or more cumbersome to recruit people from the EU could potentially put both our clients and our firm at a competitive disadvantage. We have set out below how changes to the current immigration system could adversely affect our business and that of our clients. Our practice is made up of around 500 lawyers and support staff. We provide advice and legal services to clients based in the EU and internationally. We are also founding members of Interleges, an international network of independent law firms, many of whom are based in the EU.
A significant proportion of our EU and overseas clients are engaged in “inward investment” activities which include:
- setting up in the UK,
- buying businesses in the UK, or
- otherwise expanding their presence in the UK.
These businesses require the full range of legal services, including advice on corporate, contractual, property and employment matters. When advising these businesses, it is often an advantage to be able to provide lawyers who have come from outside of the UK – perhaps even from the client’s particular jurisdiction, as this assists the process and helps to strengthen client relationships.
For example, in one of our departments, we have staff from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Southern Europe which has proved invaluable in terms of building rapport and serving clients in those countries, in many cases removing language and cultural barriers. In other departments, we have staff from India that play an important role in advising our significant Indian client base. Frequently, when you provide legal advice, local and cultural knowledge is crucial and really appreciated by clients.
In addition, the legal industry is becoming more and more international in its outlook and reach, as businesses and private individuals themselves become increasingly mobile and internationally-focussed. To remain competitive, it is imperative that our firm and the wider legal industry continue to develop their international capabilities, and this includes the ability to attract and recruit a diverse workforce made up of lawyers and support staff from the UK, the EU and overseas.
If we cannot continue to attract and recruit talent from EU countries – or it is less advantageous for workers and more onerous for employers – we will lose competitive advantage and our ability to operate effectively in the EU and on the wider global stage. We believe the UK legal industry’s status as world leaders could be under threat, if recruiting from the EU is restricted or made more difficult.
Whilst there are many unanswered questions surrounding immigration and its potential impact on attracting talent, this is something that many of our clients are particularly concerned about.
We have a significant number of clients in industry sectors, such as Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT), Life Sciences and Retail, which recruit many of their employees from the EU and overseas. In addition, many of the leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, engage staff from the EU. These institutions often provide the research, innovations and specialists which the UK TMT and Life Sciences sectors benefit from and to a large extent, rely on. Therefore, any restrictions on EU recruitment could put these companies at a significant disadvantage compared with some of their European competitors. In addition, the TMT and Life Sciences sectors’ status as world leaders could also be under threat if immigration is restricted.
Whilst respecting the referendum result and the wish for a change to the immigration system, in a post-Brexit Britain we believe we should be working to create an immigration system which
- is fair
- is transparent
- is easy to apply
- provides businesses with a certain level of predictability as to when visas are issued and extended
- is not too expensive so it precludes SMEs from recruiting from the EU
- is quick
- is proportionate in relation to the amount of information which businesses and EU applicants are required to provide to the authorities.
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