The plan to cut EU immigration by 80% post-Brexit will leave UK companies increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks, according to a cybersecurity recruitment expert.

Yesterday The Sunday Times reported that Home Secretary Sajid Javid plans to enact significant cuts on EU immigration, reducing the number of EU workers coming to the UK to work after December 2020 by as much as 80%. This could mean that by 2025, long-term EU immigration will drop to as little as 10,000.

While those opposed to uncapped immigration will likely welcome the plan, for the cybersecurity it represents a significant concern.

The UK already faces a dramatic skills gap in the cybersecurity industry, despite year-on-year growth in the number of positions available. This has resulted in salaries climbing 6%, compared to the UK national average of 2.9%, in the past year alone.

If Javid’s plan goes ahead, there are fears this issue will be exacerbated as the UK already fills many of its cybersecurity positions with candidates from the EU.

“The Home Secretary’s plan to slash EU immigration by 80% will have a significant impact on the already concerning skills gap facing the UK cybersecurity industry,” warned Simon Hember, director at cybersecurity recruitment company Acumin.

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“In the fight against cyber criminals and nation state cyber threats businesses are struggling to recruit security professionals, with the issue exacerbated in the public sector which struggles to attract highly-paid talent.

“Most technology companies are extremely reliant on recruiting international talent and will be left in an even more difficult position as freedom of movement is curtailed.”

How EU immigration cuts increase cyberattack risk

With a growing skills gap, many UK companies are increasingly finding themselves understaffed in the cybersecurity field for long periods, meaning systems can be left vulnerable to attacks during this time.

As a result, Hember fears a reduction in the cybersecurity talent pool, which would occur as a result of sharp cuts to EU immigration, would increase this risk further.

“The UK talent drought means that some companies can search for months to fill vacant security posts. In the meantime, the lack of resources leaves them vulnerable to cyberattack,” he said.

Notably, even if many cybersecurity experts are given permission to work in the UK under this new system, Hember argues that this type of severe restriction will harm the appeal of the country for overseas applicants.

“Even if an EU worker is eligible to work here, the UK will be a less attractive choice of country to build a career. The UK already loses out to several other countries on the highly competitive global security market, and if we cut or loosen ties with EU agencies such as Europol, we risk losing further influence,” he said.

“Global collaboration is extremely important in the fight against international cybercrime, and we may risk our position as a leading force in the battle.”