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Brexit white paper: free movement for 'talented' people and qualification recognition

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Architecture practices could still move their ‘talented people’ between the UK and the EU post-Brexit, with professional qualifications also recognised after the split, according to the government’s white paper

The long-awaited strategy document, published yesterday (12 July), introduces plans for a ’mobility framework’ that would allow EU professionals to work abroad temporarily without visas. 

While announcing an end to the free movement of people after December 2020, the white paper states that ‘the UK also attaches importance to the continued mobility of talented individuals and groups’.

On movement for workers post-Brexit, the paper includes measures that ’support businesses to provide services and to move their talented people’. Students from the EU will also be allowed to study in the UK.

The plans for qualifications to be mutually recognised following the UK’s exit from the bloc were welcomed by the RIBA, but the organisation said more clarity was needed on the movement of ’talented workers’. 

Chief executive Alan Vallance said: ’It is positive that the government has recognised the need for skilled workers to move freely between the UK and EU.

’However, we are still missing the vital details that will determine whether this will meet the needs of the UK’s architecture sector, and we want further clarity on how government intends to realise its ambitions.’

He added: ’The RIBA has been very clear that the recognition of the value of skilled professionals needs to be reflected in a post-Brexit immigration system that allows the UK to employ talented architects from the EU.’

Calls for greater clarity also came from the Creative Industries Foundation, which said there was a ’lack of detail and conviction’ around ease of movement and that more details were required on future immigration rules. 

Samuel Young, deputy head of policy at the Creative Industries Federation said: ’[The white paper] appears to allow movement within corporations and multinationals, so for architecture firms with multiple offices across the EU, it would allow them to move their talented people between countries.’

The mutual recognition of qualifications was ‘essential’, said Young, adding that further details were needed on how the mobility framework would function.

’The UK government has said it will look to make it easy for professionals such as architects to travel temporarily to the EU to provide services. The devil, however, will be in the detail,’ he said.

A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union said:The UK wants to agree arrangements with the EU on a reciprocal basis that would allow business professionals to move to provide services, and tourists to continue to travel freely without a visa.

’The details of this will be discussed with the EU as part of the negotiations.’

 The government plans to provide more information in September, when it publishes a more detailed strategy paper specifically on immigration.


David Green, director, Belsize Architects
It is very welcome that at last, after two years, the government has given a first indication of what they are looking for in their negotiations with the EU. It is clear that they have heard at least some of the requirements expressed by the RIBA on behalf of the profession and other built environment players. But this is only the very first step. The White Paper is just a stage in a domestic negotiation of what the UK should ask for, so that what is in the White Paper, particularly about accepting that standards in many areas will need to be same, may not be the last word. Only when the negotiating position has adapted to UK domestic demands will the real negotiation begin.

Recognition of professional qualifications is dependent on reciprocal agreement and may be hostage to agreement in other areas. The need to get migration policy and visas right is recognised as important, but we have no information as to what the detail will be and the devil will be in the detail. How will needed skills be defined? What role will salary levels play? Architects are only one of a vast range of skilled persons whose position will need to be calibrated in the new control arrangements, so their needs will need pressing relentlessly. It is good that alliances have been formed with other key groups, but this is just a reminder of how many needs have to be accommodated, and of the bureaucracy which will be required to administer the regime.

More worrying is the decision to accept, even before the negotiation begins, that Brexit will mean loss of market access for some service sectors, with the areas to be let go not yet clear. The City of London has already said bluntly that this means that there will for sure be loss of jobs and of tax revenues. This will be replicated in other services sectors. There seems no way of avoiding that the economy will slow and public finances will be constrained. This will affect the demand for architectural services.

It is extraordinary how long it has taken for the penny to start dropping that the single market, for all its very many faults, nevertheless provided access to the best functioning free trade area the world has ever known. Its benefits will be impossible to replace within any meaningful future.


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