Number of EU workers surge pre-referendum

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Non-UK nationals working in Britain rose by 88,900 in the months before the EU referendum
Non-UK nationals working in Britain rose by 88,900 in the months before the EU referendum

Related tags: United kingdom

The number of EU workers in the UK rose by almost 90,000 in the run up to the EU referendum, according to new figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

An increase of 88,900 non-UK nationals from the EU working in the UK was recorded in the three months leading to the end of June this year.

The number of workers from the EU currently employed in the UK rose to 2.3M, many of whom work in food manufacturing.

The latest figures brought the total of non-UK nationals employed in the labour sector to 3.45M up by 242,000 to since June 2015.

Union Unite voiced concerns that the growing number of migrant workers in the UK could be manipulated if the government did not put into practice plans to stop rogue employers.

‘Vulnerable to exploitation’

Unite national officer for food and drink Julia Long said: “Migrant workers are across the economy, although more densely employed in the sectors where workers are vulnerable to exploitation, such as agriculture, food production, hospitality, retail and social care.

“The main issue for Unite is that ‘rogue’ employers do not use them to undercut wages and employment opportunities. 

“That is why we want collective standards to apply across these deregulated industries.”

Long also wanted to see the workers’ rights that came with being part of the EU maintained once the UK left.

‘Social and employment protections’

Unite was in favour of ‘remain’ – and one of the main reasons for that was the social and employment protections, built up over 20 years, that the EU offers all workers across the Member States,”​ said Long.

Unite will strongly campaign to maintain those workers’ rights, whatever happens regarding Brexit.”

However, industry analysts predicted that the UK would become less attractive for migrants seeking work, following its departure from the EU.

National Institute of Economic and Social Research economist Jonathan Portes said that a weaker economy, the falling pound and a rise in racist attacks since the EU referendum, acted as deterrents for workers from outside the UK.

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