UK decision to exit the EU with likely restrictions on immigration could boost Ireland, the only English-speaking nation left in the EU

Brexit could be a talent goldmine for Ireland’s tech economy

24 Jun 2016

Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, with likely restrictions on immigration, could harm its tech economy but be a boon to that of neighbouring Ireland, as the country will be the only English-speaking nation in the EU.

Talent is the number one competitive strain holding back nations with tech aspirations and, across Europe, there are around 700,000 ICT job vacancies.

Ireland – with its booming tech industry and fast-growing financial services sector – will have the pull factor for jobseekers and companies considering their options in Europe, said Indeed’s EMEA economist Mariano Mamertino.

Mamertino said that Ireland could displace the UK as the number one choice for jobseekers in Europe.

Indeed’s recent Europe on the Move report named the UK as the most popular location for jobseekers, receiving three times as much interest as either of the next two most popular destinations, Germany and France.

‘The only English-speaking country left in the EU is going to be a huge factor and Ireland has the capacity to absorb the investments for jobs that need to be in EU borders’

While Ireland has a population of only 4.5m, it still attracts more job-seekers than countries with much bigger populations like Italy (pop 60m) and Spain (pop 47m).

Ireland could be the No 1 destination for tech talent in Europe

Mamertino said that today’s Brexit result will bolster Ireland’s attractiveness to talented workers looking for high-quality roles within the EU, with sectors like tech, pharma and financial services likely to gain from a larger pool of candidates.

“The only English-speaking country left in the EU is going to be a huge factor and Ireland has the capacity to absorb the investments for jobs that need to be in EU borders,” he said.

Mamertino said that Ireland needs to remember to support its entrepreneurial sector, as well as FDI, and needs to come up with visa and work permit policies to ensure it capitalises even more on attracting hard-to-find talent.

If Ireland plays its cards right, the logic that one FDI job equals three more in the local economy could also be true if entrepreneurs and start-ups are able to capitalise on the new Brexit reality.

“Brexit could have a strong impact on cross-border labour flows in the EU. Nearly four out of every 10 job searches in the EU15 Group takes place on Indeed’s UK site, with the level of immigration to the UK from EU countries doubling between 2012 and 2015,” Mamertino said.

“Any policies implemented by the British government aimed at making it more difficult for foreign workers to work in the UK are likely to have negative consequences for companies that have grown accustomed to relying on international sources of talent to fill their open roles.”

But there are risks and nothing is guaranteed. Mamertino pointed to the obvious negative consequences for the indigenous economy in terms of diminished trade between Ireland and the UK, and this will affect indigenous tech companies that naturally target the UK export market first.

“A lot depends on how the trade negotiations are likely to go down. It is possible the UK will retain access to the single market but nothing is guaranteed.”

Movement of people

Despite the recovery of the Irish economy, the country still has a higher number of people looking to emigrate to work in other EU nations, compared to those looking to come to Ireland to work.

Indeed’s ‘EU Net Interest Score’ for Ireland is negative (-0.20), suggesting talent is continuing to look for opportunities overseas, even as many jobseekers from other EU countries look to come to Ireland. Following the Brexit vote, this could swing to positive as the attractiveness of the UK diminishes.

‘In the longer term, workforce mobility may also be impacted’

The Europe on the Move research also indicates that Irish people are the third biggest seekers of jobs in Britain, reflecting the proximity of the two countries, linguistic and cultural ties, and openness of the market to Irish workers.

But the extent to which this would decline depends on how open the UK labour market remains to Irish workers on leaving the EU. Irish workers play a key role in filling jobs experiencing a labour shortage in the UK, with search terms including “care assistant”, “nurse” and “NHS” among those most searched by Irish jobseekers on

This sentiment was echoed by PwC’s managing partner in Ireland, Feargal O’Rourke.

“In the longer term, workforce mobility may also be impacted. A bilateral agreement with Britain giving Irish citizens special status in the UK is by no means certain and would need the approval of the European Union.”

For the UK, which attracts the lion’s share of venture capital in Europe and has aspirations to be the Silicon Valley of Europe through efforts like TechCity and Silicon Roundabout, the local tech sector is determined to weather the storm, including the war for talent.

“Today, just as it was yesterday, the UK remains a great place to start, locate and grow a tech business,” TechUK said in a statement.

“It is full of talented, skilled and passionate people with the ideas and creativity to make great things happen. Its consumers are eager and enthusiastic early adopters of new technology. Its world-class universities are powerful engines of science and innovation and its politicians and regulators have a strong record of supporting market-led investment. We must now harness these assets like never before and build a world-beating ecosystem for tech that continues the great British tradition of inventing the future.

“Today, at TechUK, we start work with our members to map out this new future. There will be a long to-do list with many policy and regulatory issues requiring urgent action. Tech companies will need to come together and speak with one voice to ensure their needs are understood and acted upon.

“To succeed, the UK tech sector needs great people, great infrastructure, world-class science and research, unfettered access to global markets, and a world-class smart and predictable regulatory environment. Without the benefits of EU membership, the UK needs to be at its very best to succeed. That remains our purpose. To make the UK the best place in the world for tech.”

Brexit image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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