HR experts react to PM’s landmark Brexit speech

Prime Minister Theresa May today laid out plans for Brexit in a speech designed to give some clarification on the government’s stance ahead of the triggering of Article 50, which will be invoked by the end of March.

In her speech, the PM said that Parliament would vote on the final deal when it is agreed by the UK and the EU and that the UK would not remain a member of the single market after it leaves the EU. Mrs May called for a ‘phased approach’ to and laid out twelve objectives for Britain’s exit from the European Union. These are:

  1. Provide certainty whenever we can. Will require give & take and compromises throughout the process. Up to the UK parliament to decide – will be vote in both houses on the final deal before it comes into force
  2. Build a stronger Britain, taking control of our own affairs and bringing an end to the jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice. UK laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast
  3. Strengthen the union between the four nations of the United Kingdom
  4. Maintain the common travel area between the UK and Republic of Ireland
  5. Control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe
  6. Guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain and the rights of British nationals in other member states
  7. Not only will the Government protect the rights of workers set out in European legislation, but it will also build on them
  8. Pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the EU
  9. It’s time for Britain to get out into the world and rediscover its role as a great, global, trading nation
  10. Continue to collaborate with European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives
  11. Continue to work closely with European allies in foreign and defence policy
  12. Phased process of implementation which will be in the interests of Britain, the EU and its member states


ELAS: “there is to be a ‘hard Brexit’ and, so far, the PM’s speech seems to be well received”

Geoff Isherwood, Legal Services Manager for the ELAS Group, said:

“It is clear that there is to be a ‘hard Brexit’ and, so far, the PM’s speech seems to be well received. We also know now that both the House of Parliament and the House of Lords will vote on the final agreement. There was reassurance for businesses in the speech with the PM saying that ‘the same laws will apply on the day after Brexit as they did before’ and there would be no ‘cliff edge’ for businesses with an implementation phase coming in after everything had been finalised.

“For now, companies should continue to operate on a business as usual basis, ensuring that they remain fully compliant with all current legislation. In terms of future changes, seeking advice from ELAS can help ensure businesses stay ahead of any changes, especially when it comes to EU workers.”

Reactions from HR professionals are set out below: (will be updated as feedback is received)


CIPD: “British business must be able to continue to attract and access global talent”

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:

“It’s important that businesses have clarity about what the Government is seeking to achieve in the negotiations, so we welcome the details of the Prime Minister’s speech.

“The Prime Minister has made it clear that she wants the UK to be able to control its borders. However, it should still be possible to design a flexible, managed immigration system that allows businesses to access the skilled and unskilled labour they need from both EU and non-EU countries. If we are to use Brexit to deliver a global Britain as the Prime Minister wishes, then British business must be able to continue to attract and access global talent. We would urge the Government to engage properly with organisations and employer bodies to ensure that their views and needs are reflected in any deal that the Prime Minister seeks to negotiate.

“It is particularly welcome that the Prime Minister confirmed that the protections afforded to workers through current employment legislation will continue. Many EU-derived regulations provide vital workplace protections and workers up and down the country will be reassured by the news that their rights will not be sacrificed as part of any deal. However, it is disappointing that the Prime Minister is currently unable to confirm that EU nationals already residing in the UK will be allowed to stay. This needs to be an immediate priority in the negotiations to come.

“Given the implications for migration, it’s more important than ever that businesses look ahead and plan their people strategies, and understand the skills and talents they need in order to ensure that that they are prepared for the future, regardless of what the final arrangements look like.”


Alan Price, HR Director, Peninsula: “businesses may not feel reassured about this plan”

“Today’s speech by Theresa May was welcomed by businesses who are seeking clarity on the long term plans for Brexit. Whilst certainty was provided on certain areas, such as whether the UK will remain a member of the single market, other areas remain deliberately vague as the final position is unknown due to the need to negotiate with the European Union (EU).

“For many employers, the Prime Minister’s confirmation that immigration will be controlled domestically is one of the most important objectives of the speech. For businesses that rely heavily on large number of immigration workers, such as agriculture, food and drink and manufacturing, future curbs may restrict their ability to recruit and retain workforce levels needed to continue with current production levels. A lack of available workers could also lead to an increase in wages as need outstrips supply; whilst positive for workers this may not be viable for certain companies.

“The speech also confirmed that existing worker rights deriving from Europe will be maintained and protected in the future as they are fully enshrined in domestic law. Indeed, the Prime Minister went on to pledge that worker rights will be built on. This pledge ensures that no drastic changes are likely to be forthcoming, although it does not entirely remove the potential for future Parliamentary amendments to existing laws. May also used her speech to repeat the government’s commitment of ensuring legal protection for workers is changing with the current labour market and that workers will be heard on the boards of public companies for the first time.

“Theresa May set out her plan for a phased approach to Brexit; there will be an agreed plan in place by the end of the two year negotiating period and then a period of phased implementation of the arrangements in the EU and Britain. Whilst this provides certainty that there will be no sudden change, businesses may not feel reassured about this plan because some issues, such as immigration changes, are likely to take longer than others and may lead to longer periods of uncertainty.”


Jonathan Beech, Managing Director of Migrate UK: “Theresa May’s words need action if we’re to secure UK talent”

“The fact that Theresa May recognises in her Brexit speech, that we must continue to attract the brightest and best to work and study in Britain, is a positive sign for the future talent of our workforce. But how she manages this as part of her policy to control immigration will be critical to ensuring that British organisations, that rely on the skills of an international workforce, remain strong. 

“As May says, we need highly skilled immigration but some of the Government’s immigration policies, announced last year, include introducing a tougher work permit system and a tighter resident labour market test for companies to pass before recruiting EU employees. These polices could threaten the future skills of our workforce. They could see the introduction of costly and time consuming policies for organisations that employ EU workers whilst work permits could heavily limit EU migrants from Britain unless they already have a skilled job offer.

“The Prime Minister may have said in her Brexit speech that she wants to secure the rights of EU nationals in Britain but if companies want to be certain over the future of their EU skills, then they’re advised to encourage any EU workers, who are classified as a ‘qualified persons,’ to apply for a registration certificate. This will prove their right to live or to work in the UK and give the assurance employers need ahead of any immigration changes imposed.”


This news feed will be updated as reactions come in..




Author: Editorial Team

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