On 23rd June 2016, I was in Thailand on holiday with friends watching the results of the referendum come in. As Gibraltar first announced a 99.7% result in favour of remain, we were sat with our Gin and Tonics on the beach fully expecting the majority of the country would vote in the same way we had, through a postal vote, and that our lives would return to business as usual. Of course, future generations will remember that day as one that changed British history forever.
The UK’s reputation as a country that has to do things differently was wholly reinforced. We kept our own currency, drive on the left and now we are leaving the European Union.
Brexit has opened some big questions for us as Recruiters in the Games, Interactive and Technology space:
- What will leaving the European Union mean for us and those we work with?
- What impact will it have on gaining access to skilled talent globally?
- What opportunities could Brexit give both AAA and Indie studios alike?
In our recent survey of the Games & Interactive industries, we ask people how they believe Brexit could harm the industry. The response was overwhelmingly negative…
A huge majority of people think it will be harder for UK companies to hire after Brexit (81% in the UK, 77% outside UK).
What’s more, 38% of people that don’t live in the UK and would have considered living here previously, would not once we’ve left the EU - broken down that’s 44% of people in Europe and 28% of people in North America.
Not surprising considering that 25% of non-British nationals won’t be looking to remain in the UK post-Brexit. In addition to this, we may also see homegrown talent leaving the UK with 7% of British nationals in the UK saying they won’t be looking to remain in the UK post-Brexit.
From the above figures, it is obvious that there are concerns regarding the job status of EU nationals in the UK. So, what’s the truth behind these concerns?
In the event of a no deal Brexit (often regarded as the worst of all outcomes) the UK would fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms meaning that ‘products’ i.e. games and software would be able to move freely, however freedom of movement (people) would cease and a full third of the gaming industry’s employee’s status would become uncertain. Which in itself explains where there is this worry from EU nationals.
Right now, the only thing certain about Brexit is the uncertainty
There could be additional costs for future employers from Europe paying thousands per employee to ensure sponsorship. As one of our candidates commented “Right now the only thing certain about Brexit is the uncertainty. With such a drastic economic shift, I think it's safe to say that there will be economic turbulence in the short term. As such, I assume people (myself included) will be hesitant to start a new job in the UK.”
Most economists agree that for economic growth, we need economic stability, and for many companies, the uncertainty is causing them to jump ship. There was widespread panic in the UK games industry when Sony announced they were moving their UK headquarters from Weybridge, Surrey to Amsterdam, but thankfully PlayStation’s European office will remain in the UK, according to a report from GamesIndustry.biz.
"Our industry is culturally global; with the products we create, the people behind them and the players we bring together," Creative Assembly studio director Tim Heaton told GamesInsustry.biz. "A no-deal Brexit is a barrier to the UK's role in this, and unfortunately there is no one clear action that will protect studios from its impact."
Opinions are obviously still split and at the moment no one can know what’s on the horizon but…
It’s not all doom and gloom
Believe it or not, Brexit could bring about some benefits to the UK gaming industry. Following the referendum result, the Pound Sterling depreciated, and it’s predicted by many economists that we would suffer a ‘run on the pound’. A weaker pound, however, could mean that online platforms become cheaper and therefore more accessible to the wider public which has the potential to make indie games studios in the UK more competitive. As one respondent to our survey said “As games rely less on import/export or movement of goods to Europe, I hope that the industry will be less affected than others. I think that fewer people may want to come and work in games in the UK, but we have a large pool of developers in the UK anyway.
Another potential benefit to the UK and one of the key reasons people voted for Brexit, was a belief in becoming a ‘Global Britain’, once again trading on a global scale outside of the European Union. Bringing potential for greater partnerships.
This does add a hope that Brexit could offer an opportunity for businesses to more easily recruit the best of the best from across the globe rather than just relying on a pool of European talent, due to the visa applications being pretty similar. In December 2018 the Conservative government confirmed this by setting out their proposal which advises that EU and non-EU migrants will have the same skills-based system applied. Couple this with companies no doubt equipping themselves with the tools to support visa-based applicants, everyone will have access to a global talent pool.
What can companies do now?
Brexit impact assessment. If you haven't started already, get planning! Think about how Brexit will impact your business. Doing a Brexit impact assessment will help you to revise existing processes and plan any necessary changes (including contingency plans for the Brexit transition period).
Do your Homework! It’s essential you keep ahead of the curve and up to date with the latest developments. We’d recommend taking a look at UKIE’s No Deal Brexit Guide as well as the governments advice for businesses:
- Trade remedies if there's no Brexit deal
- Trading with the EU if there's no Brexit deal
- Classifying your goods in the UK Trade Tariff if there's no Brexit deal
- Export controlled goods if there's no Brexit deal
Get ahead and apply for a Sponsor Licence. If you know you’ll be wanting/needing to hire from outside the UK apply for UK visa sponsorship for employers. This means you’ll be in the best position possible when March 29th rolls around.
Reassure Staff. It’s important you understand which staff could be affected, and how you can help reassure them they are a priority for you after Brexit comes into force. It may be worth considering financial incentives for particularly nervous EU employees to stay with you - in the short to medium term, it could be hard to replace them. Read through the resources below and talk to your employees about their options.
- EU Settlement Scheme: employer toolkit
- IES – Brexit impact on the workplace
- Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know
As recruiters in the Games Industry we’ll be paying keen attention to the news and Brexit updates and when March 29th hits, whatever the outcome, we’ll be continuing to support both studios and their employees to make the transition run as smoothly as possible, cultivating the best possible outcomes for all our clients and candidates.