Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, says Yes.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show a drop in net migration of 49,000 in the 12 months to September 2016 – so including the three months immediately after the Brexit vote. It also highlighted a worrying trend for the British tech industry, a reduction in the number of international students studying in the UK.
Tech firms require access to highly skilled digital workers in order to fill roles in fast-growing startups and scaleups, often at relatively short notice. A fall in net migration may threaten access to this talent, and the drop in international students is a worrying sign that ambitious and skilled workers may be less inclined to move to the UK.
There is a significant onus on the government to provide an open and inclusive visa system that supports our tech sector’s talent requirements. If we prioritise a reduction in the net migration number above the needs of our economy, it will leave us starved of the talent needed to build the tech giants of the future.
Len Shackleton, professor of economics at the University of Buckingham, says No.
One set of figures means nothing. That said, we shouldn’t worry too much even in the longer term.
Will academics quit the UK? No. Our universities are open to their talents. The Research Excellence Framework has its downsides, but young researchers are recognised and rewarded in a way far from usual in much of the EU. If sufficient funding remains available to support useful scientific research, I don’t see a problem.
The NHS? The domestic supply of doctors (and nurses) is artificially constrained by government – this can and should change whatever happens to inflows and outflows of medics.
Bankers? The EU’s threat to the City is exaggerated, and the brightest and best are not going to be attracted by lower pay and greater restrictions in Paris or Frankfurt.
Artistic talent facing higher tax rates and language barriers? Nah. ICT and gig economy startups facing excessive regulation and cultural hostility? Please. Avoid complacency, sure, but calm down everyone.