The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has described the the Home Office’s post-Brexit immigration plan, which has been leaked to the Guardian newspaper, as potentially catastrophic.
The leaked draft outlines plans to end freedom of movement immediately after Brexit, and to offer low-skilled EU migrants two-year work permits, with high-skilled workers receiving visas for three to five years.
Ufi Ibrahim (pictured), the chief executive of the BHA, said: “If these proposals are implemented it could be catastrophic for the UK hospitality industry and for those who enjoy the hospitality it brings – whether it be in restaurants, theatres, hotels, bars or tourist attractions.
“The government needs to be urgently reminded that so-called unskilled workers in hospitality – the ambassadors for our country – are necessary. It is not just the bankers and the lawyers that are needed to fill the employment gaps.”
Ibrahim said that BHA research from KPMG shows at least 60,000 new EU service workers are needed per year to fill the vacancies in hospitality alone. The research also revealed that 75% of waiters, 25% of chefs and 37% of housekeepers are EU nationals.
“And in London and the south-east especially, some businesses rely totally on EU service workers. The UK has near full-employment, so where are the recruits going to come from for the UK’s fourth largest industry that employs over 4.5 million people nationwide?” she said.
The BHA has submitted to the government a 10-year-plan to encourage more UK people to consider a career in hospitality.
Ibrahim argued: “The idea that so-called ‘unskilled workers’ would be able to stay for up to two years, whereas others can stay longer, is deliberately discriminatory and with other restrictions will add unnecessary red tape.
“We understand the need and the wish to reduce immigration but we need to tread carefully and be aware of the unintended consequences – some businesses will fail, taking UK jobs with them.”
Echoing her comments, UKinbound chief executive Deirdre Wells said: “Last year, the UK tourism industry contributed over £22 billion to the UK economy and can attribute its success in part to the large number of EU nationals it currently employs.
“More than two thirds of visitors to the UK come from the EU. Employing EU nationals is vital so that the industry can plug the gaps in our workforce with their crucial language skills and cultural understanding, which are used to welcome and serve our EU visitors.”
Wells added that any future system which reduces the border welcome would severely damage the industry’s capacity to grow.