Brexit Fallout: Is the U.K. Facing a Brain Drain?

Editor’s note: If Britain does leave the European Union it will have significant implications for U.S. companies employing workers in the U.K. or considering expanding there. Littler Mendelson attorneys detail some of the potential impacts in today’s TLNT article – What Brexit May Mean For U.S. Companies With Overseas Workers.

On June 23 the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. Initially a shock for the business world, now a reality we are beginning to come to grips with. The vote puts into play all manner of business issues — free trade, ease of travel, and for us, employment flexibility.

In addition to the business tangle, there is an emotional issue to the Brexit vote. Suddenly, many Europeans working and living in the U.K. feel unwelcome.

When the Greek and Portuguese economies became shaky a few years back, we at Kennedy Executive Search & Consulting saw a sudden and sizable interest from bright, highly educated individuals in those countries inquiring about opportunities in northern Europe. Now, not only are we still receiving CVs from excellent, highly qualified professionals in those, but suddenly also from the UK. Since the vote, we are receiving applications almost every day – in particular from London.

Here at Kennedy Executive Search, we have been astonished how fast highly qualified candidates in London sent us their CVs. London has been the financial capital for many decades and this will not change overnight. However, we are encountering people not waiting for the future. Why are people leaving? Here is what just a few of them have told us in just the past week:

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  • “In light of the recent Brexit vote here in the UK, I would be very interested in finding out more on the current state of the job market in Paris.”
  • “I do feel less welcome in this country now. And I’m not sure if I even want to live in a country filled with so many not-that-bright people.”
  • “Due to Brexit and sudden drop in earnings, non-UK citizens are being told to find a new role outside of the organization.”
  • “Being German and due to the Brexit results, after 13 years in London, I am actively seeking opportunities to move back to Europe.“

We have been stunned not only by the number of applications  — 25 applications in Amsterdam from London alone —  but also the reasons why people want to leave. The UK has not been hit by a sudden economic collapse. After speaking with numerous candidates from the UK, we’ve come to some preliminary conclusions about why the sudden interest in jobs in Europe:

  • European continental citizens who have real estate are trying to cash their profits before it is too late – they are all anticipating a sudden drop in the housing market.
  • Candidates do not want to wait for the bureaucratic situation due to the new rules and regulations requiring them to stay.
  • The market potential for Europe is much bigger than just the UK – it is easier to relocate now before the closure of the UK market.
  • Many large corporates have indicated an interest in moving their headquarters to the continent – in particular to the Netherlands due to excellent tax benefits and the open market.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Kennedy Executive website.

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