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London’s Workers Left Hanging Amid Brexit Talent Drain Fears

U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond said Monday that Brexit is one of the most challenging tasks the country has faced in peacetime.

London’s international workforce is left hanging by British politicians who may not be moving fast enough to prevent a serious drain of talent from the city.

At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, England on Monday, the City of London Corp. released new research showing that 32 percent of the 455,000 workers in its financial hub were born outside of the U.K., with 12 percent born in the European Union.

Britain’s plan to end free movement of labor beginning in March 2019 — when the country will leave the E.U. — has raised concern about how the U.K. will fill jobs with the best talent. Brexit is disrupting the personal lives of London’s financial professionals, who may leave due to the lack of clarity on what the divorce means for their careers.

“While City firms are rightfully preparing their contingency plans, it is a lot harder for individuals and their families to plan for the future and unfair that they should be unsure of their position in a country to which many of them have contributed so much,” said Catherine McGuinness, policy chairman for the City of London Corp. “We urge the government and the EU27 to reach agreement on the status of E.U. nationals as soon as possible.”

The EU27 refers to the number of members in the European Union without the U.K.

Representatives from trade groups, asset managers and pension investors have been meeting with government officials throughout the conference, with fringe meetings held along the sidelines to debate Brexit-related issues. The City of London Corp. said it has sent representatives to all three of the U.K.’s major political party conferences this fall.

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Richard Bunting, a board member for the Conservative Party’s regional office in London, told conference attendees Monday that clarity was needed on the rights of E.U. nationals and cross-border sales of financial products, known as passporting.

“We need this Conservative government to protect this vital industry, to protect vital passporting rights, allowing financial services firms the ability to trade,” Bunting said. “We need to guarantee the rights of those E.U. nationals and we need to secure the regulatory environment.”

U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond took to the conference stage shortly after and acknowledged there was a need to “resolve the challenge” of Brexit by “accelerating the talks.”

The Chancellor told conference delegates that negotiators should not “play down the difficulties or underestimate the complexities, adding that Brexit was presenting “one of the most challenging tasks ever undertaken by a peace-time government” in the U.K.