Car retailers across the UK could be faced with post-Brexit recruitment shortages unless free movement of labour within EU borders is agreed, according to Coachworks Consulting.
The automotive consultancy service has suggested that the sector could be hard-hit by Britain’s departure from the EU as uncertainty surrounds the post-Brexit employment status of EU nationals.
While the government has offered EU citizens currently working in the UK a settlement scheme, Coachworks Consulting managing director Karl Davis believes that one of the key unresolved issues in the Brexit debate remains what will happen after March 29 next year when businesses need to recruit new staff.
Davis said: “The UK car retailing sector has long benefitted from the skills and work ethic of employees from EU member states across all disciplines from sales and aftersales through to valeting.
“While the status of European immigrants currently employed in our sector looks assured, we still do not know if the free movement rules will remain.
“As the clock ticks on Brexit there is a potential workforce crisis heading our way.”
Davis cited Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) estimates that around 10% of staff employed in the UK automotive sector are from elsewhere in the EU.
He also highlighted Office for National Statistics data which showed how the number of EU nationals working in the UK dropped year-on-year in Q1 2018 by 20,000 to 2.29 million, the first fall in eight years.
Davis said: “We already know that since the Brexit vote fewer EU nationals are coming to the UK to work.
“With the UK government committed to achieving some form of Brexit, car retailers across the UK need urgent assurances now about who they can recruit after March 2019 if business plans being written now are to be achieved.
“A guarantee of the existing free movement of labour within European borders must be a fundamental part of any Brexit agreement, otherwise the hard work put into turning this sector around after the financial crisis will be underdone.”