Editorial

Study: Brexit won’t work unless we have, er… migrants

To make a post-EU UK work, government needs to work harder to attract and support job-creating foreign entrepreneurs, says a new study by IoD and a social enterprise

Posted 12 September 2016 by

'Growth' by Matthew Vassallo, FlickrUK HMG must better support job-creating migrant entrepreneurs to help make a success of, well – Brexit.

That’s the surprising claims of a report launched today conducted by the Institute of Directors (IoD) and an outfit called mi-HUB, which describes itself as a socially driven enterprise that helps migrant and British entrepreneurs start and grow successful businesses.

The claim is that overseas entrepreneurs waste time in their struggle to get established, and if they could be integrated quicker their “migrant-led businesses” could create even more jobs and boost the UK economy – and thus make a success of our leaving the EU.

The report also argues that any post-Brexit policies designed to restrict or complicate visas would therefore have a damaging long-term effect on the UK economy.

Surprising perhaps, but one that comes with some credible backing. “For all the talk of migrants ‘taking our jobs’ it’s more likely that they will be creating them,” said Director General of the IoD Simon Walker, for example. “As we move towards our departure from the European Union and rewrite our immigration policy, ensuring that we are still open to those who want to grow their businesses in the UK will be absolutely crucial.”

And in the study’s foreword, we read this, from no less a source than Lord Young of Graffham, former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and author of the Coalition Government’s report into start-up enterprise:

“The vast majority of those who arrive on our shores come here looking for the opportunity to better themselves, to enable their family to enjoy a decent life and many can do that best by setting up their own business.

“I commend this report for demonstrating how much we should welcome those immigrants, how much we should assist them in their endeavours to work for themselves and, ultimately, how much their efforts will benefit the whole economy.”

The report, Migrant Entrepreneurship in the UK: The benefits to Britain, was built on interviews and surveys undertaken by mi-HUB and the IoD, and found that the majority of the 80 interviewed – foreign entrepreneurs now leading companies – either employ native born workers or are planning to do so in the near future.

But when the entrepreneurs were asked about the issues they faced, and are said to have identified their challenges as:

  • lack of contacts and networks holds them back (44%)
  • lack of knowledge of both government and non-government schemes designed to help start-up businesses (38%)
  • difficulties in accessing finance (33%)

To the last point, difficulties transferring credit histories from abroad, particularly outside the European Union, often means entrepreneurs struggle to access finance or obtain credit cards to fund early stage business, says the study.

While more than half of the IoD 99 – a group of business founders predominantly born in the UK – have used government grants or loans in the past five years, less than one in ten migrant entrepreneurs have benefitted from those schemes, the study concludes.