How Will Brexit Impact On Engineering Jobs?
Uncertainties over employment and development have arisen in many sectors in recent months, and the engineering industry is one area in which huge changes may be inevitable. The unexpected result of the UK-wide referendum, in which a small margin demonstrated a majority of voters hoping to exit the EU, has been accepted by the British Government as a mandate to proceed with ‘Brexit”, and the impact of this is, as yet, largely unknown.
Speculation around the consequences of this decision, which was advised against by large numbers of financial and industry experts, has been furious, and there is, as yet, no definitive answer to the question of how Brexit will impact on engineering jobs. However, early indications, including the removal of several ‘big name’ businesses from the UK, suggest that the implications may be profound.
Why Is The Engineering Industry Important?
The engineering industry is a vast and multi-faceted sector, employing millions of people across the UK. It regularly contributes more than a quarter of the UK’s GDP, and The Institute of Engineering and Technology published statistics earlier this year which showed that 17% of those employed as engineers in the UK are from the EU.
The impact of the Brexit vote will not be binding for at least two years, since the processes by which the UK may leave the EU are complex, but many large businesses are already making the decision to move their manufacturing headquarters elsewhere as a result of the situation. Airlines and car manufacturers, in particular, have been vocal about the likelihood of relocating, and start-up companies in the technical sector are beginning to choose Berlin over London as their base.
How Will This Affect Ireland’s Engineers?
The impact of the Brexit referendum on Ireland was a little discussed point in referendum debates, and what this vote means for Ireland is not yet clear. However, there are many ways in which engineers in Ireland could be affected, and these may be vital in future negotiations about the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU.
1. Irish engineers working in the UK. While opposition parties have called for assurances that EU workers already in the UK will be entitled to stay after Brexit, the British Government have refused to confirm this. It is clear that the UK would experience a heightened skills shortage in this area if a curb on immigration included current workers, and this will push the demand for good quality engineers to an unprecedented level. UK businesses will be aware of the detrimental effects this could have on their development, and we assume that this knowledge will inform debates around this issue.
2. Access to the global market. Ireland’s position as an EU member will be unaffected by the changes in trade laws that will alter the way in which the UK accesses global markets, but the impact of these changes may have long lasting effects on Ireland which are not yet clear, especially as the UK is such a major purchaser of Irish exports.
3. Funding for research. A great deal of research funding across many sectors in the UK will be feeling the impact of the impending departure from the EU. Having received a great deal of EU funding for many industries and projects, it is unknown how the UK will manage this loss of funds. Perhaps Ireland’s industries have the potential to make the most of this situation by developing research programmes in line with EU provision, and extending an already close relationship with the EU in this regard.
The unavoidable truth is that we simply do not know at this stage whether the Brexit decision will create such negative outcomes as are currently predicted. Ireland’s engineering industry is currently closely tied to the British market, but perhaps engineering businesses in Ireland will consider making the most of their position as members of the EU in the future.
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