City’s appeal to suffer if attracting EU labour becomes ‘bureaucratic’


London’s appeal as a hub for financial services faces challenges if the UK adopts “bureaucratic” immigration processes for attracting EU labour, a Brexit sub-committee has heard today.

Nearly 11 per cent of the the City’s 360,000-strong workforce is believed to come from the European Union, according to the last census.

“Part of the City’s strength is its access to a deep pool of skilled labour,” London School of Economics professor Sir Charles Bean told the EU financial affairs sub-committee in the House of Lords this week.

“My worry is some heavy bureaucratic process is put in place, which takes a very long time to operate and becomes very cumbersome. The more efficient whatever is put in place the better.”

“For financial services institutions, and many other employers for that matter, the key is that whatever is there enables them to get the specialised labour that they need in a relatively efficient and smooth way,” Bean says.

“That’s clearly one of the several attractions of London as a place for business. Were access to that skilled labour to be seriously impaired that will impinge on London’s attractions.”

“A lot depends on the controls on migration.”

Bean’s comments fall in stark contrast to those of prime minister Theresa May, who says limiting migration will be a “red line” in Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

However, she has vetoed a points-based immigration system similar to Australia’s, which was suggested as a desirable model by Brexit campaigners in the lead up to the referendum.

Immigration was considered to be key area of concern for many voters that were in favour of leaving the European Union.

A poll of more than 10,000 voters conducted on behalf of Lord Ashcroft found 81 per cent of Brexit voters considered multiculturalism a force for ill, while 80 per cent argued the same about immigration.

In contrast 71 per cent of remain voters considered multiculturalism a force for good and 79 per cent thought the same of immigration.

Only 34 per cent of workers in the country’s banking and financial services sector would be eligible to work in the UK under rules applied to non-EU immigrants, research by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory found in June. However, this figures included cleaners, back office staff and security, as well as finance professionals.