Emigration rise 'big worry' for firms who risk losing key staff, figures show
The increase in emigration is an "alarming sign" for companies, which risk losing key members of staff, business leaders have warned.
Seamus Nevin, of the Institute of Directors (IoD), said the new figures underlined the importance of immigration to the UK workforce and were a warning of the damage a significant reduction could do.
He said: "Alarmingly, the fall in net migration is being driven as much by people leaving as by fewer arriving.
"This is a big worry for employers who risk losing key members of staff in positions that cannot easily be replaced from the home-grown pool available.
"The IoD has repeatedly called for the government to guarantee the status of EU migrants already living here. Doing so would allow businesses to start planning for the future.
"There is a well expressed public desire for increased control of immigration but all parties in the general election should set out clearly the costs of any proposals they make."
Stephen Clarke, of the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: "The sharp fall in migration since the referendum shows that British businesses need to start preparing now for a big shift in the labour market, even before we leave the EU.
"Rising emigration among EU nationals, particularly from Eastern Europe, means that many firms would be wise to rethink their investment, recruitment and training policies.
"What businesses also need during this election campaign is far more clarity from political parties about what their post-Brexit migration policy will be."
Tim Thomas, of the EEF manufacturers group, said the official figures offered the first real insight into the impact of the EU referendum result on migration.
"With a clear warning that the Brexit effect is chilling the labour market, the future UK government must unequivocally make it clear quickly that EU workers in the UK will retain all of their current rights after the UK leaves the EU, as well as spelling out how EU workers will be able to work in the UK after 2019," he said.
"Many British businesses will face serious difficulties if this is not resolved reasonably quickly."