If the UK can’t guarantee European citizens now working there that their lives will be unaffected by Brexit, then those people should look for jobs in Denmark.
The Confederation of Danish Industry, which represents about 10,000 corporations, says now is the time to try to attract that demographic to the Scandinavian country and help deal with a severe labour shortage.
“We can use a lot of the EU citizens currently working in the UK,” Steen Nielsen, chief of labour policy at the Copenhagen-based confederation, said.
“It’s pretty unclear what’s going to happen—the Brits don’t yet know what rules they’ll apply” to EU workers, he said.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has tried to reassure European citizens in Britain that they will still be welcome in the country after it leaves the union by the end of March 2019.
But so far talks have stalled, with basic questions such as Britain’s EU budget obligations and citizens’ rights remaining unresolved. According to Nielsen, Denmark needs to be proactive in its efforts to attract EU workers now caught in the Brexit crosshairs, because many other European countries are grappling with similar labour shortages and will also be making overtures.
“There’s a tussle going on between countries to attract the right workers,” Nielsen said.
He says that over the past 12 months, about 40 percent of
the confederation’s members have had to abandon their efforts to find the right people to
“It’s very relevant to look closer at those who don’t know what their future will look like in the UK,” he said.
Scandinavian countries such as Denmark are wondering how to find the resources needed to sustain their famed welfare societies.
In neighbouring Sweden, even a record influx of immigrants has failed to ease a shortage of labour that now threatens to upend the country’s economic growth.
The Danish central bank has long warned of bottlenecks in the labor market. The center-right government of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen is responding with proposed tax cuts to create more incentives for people to join the workforce.
Nielsen says Denmark urgently needs everything from electricians to industrial technicians and metal workers.
Aside from targeting EU citizens whose lives have been made less certain by Brexit, he wants authorities to make it easier for businesses to bring in skilled labour from outside Europe.
In a speech delivered in Manchester earlier this month,
May said EU citizens living in Britain don’t need to worry about their future.
“If you are a citizen of the EU who has made their life in this country I know you will feel unsettled and nervous,” she said in a speech now notorious for its litany of mishaps.
“But let me be clear that we value the contribution that you make to the life in our country. You are welcome here and I urge the negotiating teams to reach agreement on this quickly because we want you to stay.”
May last month in Florence also offered an assurance that Britain will meet its financial obligations to Europe.
EU leaders are due to meet for a summit next week and will decide how talks should proceed.