London businesses threatened with outflow of EU staff, says business group

An influential London business group has called on the government to do more to encourage EU workers to stay in the UK, after finding that the capital's firms are being threatened with staff outflows.

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has found that 14 per cent of businesses in the capital who employ staff from the EU 27 have seen some of those people leave the country, as a result of the UK's decision to separate from the EU.

A further 32 per cent of businesses – or 41 per cent of businesses with more than 10 employees – say that some employees have expressed concerns as to whether they and their families will be able to stay in the UK after Brexit.

Read more: London businesses urge government to "grasp the nettle" as survey clocks fifth consecutive negative outlook since Brexit vote

The figures come as shadow Brexit secretary Sir Kier Starmer signalled his support for an "easy movement" deal between the EU and the UK.

He admitted that "freedom of movement can't stay the same – the status quo is not an option", but added that "the end of free movement doesn't mean no movement".

"Of course we would want people to come from the EU to work here, we would want people who are here to go and work in the EU – the basis of that would have to be negotiated," he said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show yesterday.

Read more: Trade barriers are top concern for London firms one year on from Brexit vote, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry finds

LCCI's data showed that two thirds of the 500 businesses it surveyed in London employ non-UK EU staff. Almost one third of those report that some of their staff from abroad have felt less welcome to stay in the UK following the Brexit referendum.

However, since the data was collected, the UK and the EU last Friday moved onto the second phase of divorce negotiations meaning that "sufficient progress" had been made on citizens' rights.

“Although Friday’s breakthrough is a relief in some ways, we don’t know if the staff that have gone will return and if they don’t who will plug that gap," said LCCI's chief executive Colin Stanbridge.

“Employees want certainty, and so do the businesses that employee them."

Read more: Brexit phase two confirmed: Here's how businesses are reacting to the news

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