As the UK approached its departure from the European Union, there was a great deal of uncertainty regarding the retention of talent — but have those fears been founded? In this article, we’re looking at how Brexit has affected the retention of young talent in the UK.

The United Kingdom has always been a popular choice for people of all ages and from many different countries. When Great Britain announced that it would be leaving the European Union, there was a sense of panic amongst overseas workers in the country — many of whom chose to leave the UK and settle elsewhere.

Hot on the heels of the initial uncertainty came the COVID-19 pandemic, which all but halted international travel to and from many countries including the UK. As a result, businesses experienced some serious staffing issues — including the NHS, which continues to struggle in terms of attracting qualified and experienced employees.

The advent of the global business mobility visa in 2022 brought about some significant changes in the landscape. These, at times, seemed uncertain due to the UK’s departure from the European Union in 2020. In this article, we’re going to be taking a look at how Brexit has affected the retention of young talent in the UK.

Opening up opportunities

In 2021, the UK Government implemented its post-Brexit immigration system. This new system works by issuing a series of different visas to EU and non-EU citizens, which will then allow them to live and work in the UK. These visas include:

While the introduction of these visas has certainly helped in terms of allowing talent to flow back into the UK, each of these visas comes with a set of criteria which must be met in order for an application to be accepted. These criteria will often prove to be prohibitive to those without a certain level of skill and experience.

Migration to the UK

While migration back to the UK may have been slow due to the pandemic, it is gaining momentum. In 2022, 1.1 million people moved to the UK from overseas, many of whom did so through an application for one of the visas mentioned above.

Last year, as businesses continued to struggle with staffing issues, the UK Government announced that it has a commitment to helping the economy by attracting more migrant workers. Part of this plan is made up of attracting talent through the visa immigration scheme.

The second part of this plan is to build on the UK innovation Strategy which lays out its mission as follows:

  • Pillar 1: Unleashing business — we will fuel businesses that want to innovate.
  • Pillar 2: People — we will make the UK the most exciting place for innovation talent.
  • Pillar 3: Institutions and places — we will ensure our research, development and innovation institutions serve the needs of businesses and places across the UK.
  • Pillar 4: Missions and technologies — we will stimulate innovation to tackle major challenges faced by the UK and the world and drive capability in key technologies.


As great as this may sound, those looking to move to the UK in 2023 are faced with a number of new obstacles. As with many other countries in the world, the United Kingdom is experiencing energy and cost-of-living crises which are making it extremely hard for a lot of people to make ends meet.

On top of this, it was announced this week that London, which is the main draw for people moving to the UK, has now reached a level where the average rent in some boroughs is £2,600 a month. All of this may deter a significant number of workers from moving to Great Britain in the near future.

Hiring from overseas with working from home

One light at the end of the tunnel for employers may be the increased popularity of the work-from-home model. Within this model — and with some of the immigration visas — it is possible for UK businesses to hire overseas employees without them needing to physically come into the office.

This can be done relatively easily due to advances in technology, such as meetings by video. While maybe not ideal, some employers are choosing to do this as a temporary measure, as it still allows them to employ the top talent that they so desperately need. As things progress, they will hopefully have an opportunity to make the move to living and working in the UK once things become more settled.

Brexit has both improved and worsened the picture

There is little doubt that, as we settle into a post-Brexit and post-pandemic world, talented workers will once again choose to make their home in the UK. When everything shakes out, Great Britain is still an incredibly attractive choice for migrant workers, and many will have the option to stay in the country for up to five years on a skilled worker visa — with an option to renew.

In the meantime, government initiatives to bring workers back appear to be slowly working. Figures published in April show that the UK employment rate stood at 75.8% from December 2022 to February 2023 — that’s 0.2% higher than in the last quarter of 2022. This uptick is a good indication that the UK is back on track in terms of recruitment.