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Hope for jobs market as Brexit date approaches

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The UK government has announced a new fast-track visa scheme to attract the world’s top scientists, researchers and mathematicians. The news comes as Britain is set to leave the European Union on 31 January. 

Hiring and retaining skilled employees is a continuous challenge for the photonics industry, and for UK companies the uncertainty surrounding Brexit has added to this challenge. 

This is the view of Robert van Tankeren, from recruitment firm TMC Physics, who spoke at last year's EPIC annual meeting: ‘The amount of people applying for jobs in the UK from the EU has dropped considerably. This makes it even harder for UK companies [to hire] at the moment,' he said. TMC Physics has studied how Brexit is having an effect on the job market

The new Global Talent route will have no cap on the number of people able to come to the UK, which the government hopes will increase the talent pool available to organisations trying to fill technical positions. The new visa replaces the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and, for the first time, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will endorse applicants from the scientific and research community.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said: 'To lead the field and face the challenges of the future we need to continue to invest in talent and cutting-edge research. That is why, as we leave the EU, I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world - and stand ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality.' 

With the UK's departure from the EU scheduled for this Friday, much will depend on the trade deal struck between the two powers – but industry observers believe that the jobs market could stabilise once there is more political clarity, and that international workers could be further encouraged to apply for jobs in the UK.  

‘It’s just the uncertainty that is affecting things – because nobody is sure what the final outcome of Brexit will be, and how it will affect movement in the EU,' said Chris Thiel, of recruitment firm Insight Technology Search, at the EPIC event.

'Once the deal is completed – whether it’s a "hard" or "soft" Brexit – I believe people will start looking for positions in the UK again, because at least there will be certainty.’

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