Brexit exodus begins at tourism and hospitality firms

EU nationals working for British tourism and hospitality companies are departing in droves, thanks to Brexit.

A survey by UKinbound found that some companies have seen 20% or more of their EU nationals leave the UK “because of the long-term uncertainty over their status”.

Almost 50% of respondents said they are having difficulties recruiting EU staff because of Brexit.

The survey found that 92% of respondents employ EU nationals, and more than a third say that EU migrants currently make up more than 50% of their workforce.

UKinbound members cited country knowledge, languages and customer service skills as the main benefits of employing EU nationals.

Last week, prime minister Theresa May asked EU countries to agree to a two-year Brexit transition period, between 2019 and 2021, during which the UK would continue to enjoy access to the single market.

Deirdre Wells, UKinbound chief executive, said: “A skilled workforce that provides a warm welcome to guests, excellent customer service and cultural understanding is the backbone of our industry, and our members need the ability to seamlessly recruit UK and EU nationals that provide these skills in the long term.

“We welcome the prime minister’s reassuring words about the future status of EU nationals…but further detail is needed as soon as possible if we are to retain and recruit employees.

“Our successful industry relies heavily on EU nationals and we will keep raising our concerns with government on behalf of our members who are very worried about the future of their businesses.”

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said: “KPMG research, commissioned by the BHA, shows that the hospitality industry, the UK’s fourth largest, is highly reliant on EU workers, with shortfalls of up one million workers predicted after 10 years if EU migration was to be curtailed completely, so continued freedom of movement during the transition phase is welcome.

“Registration for EU workers must not be bureaucratic and immigration processes should be welcoming towards new arrivals.”

She said the BHA has a 10-year strategy to encourage more British workers to enter the hospitality industry.

“There is not a readily available workforce within the UK labour market which can replace our valued EU workers, given record low unemployment and an educational system that does not encourage training for recruits to our industry,” said Ibrahim.

“As these issues cannot be solved in three-and-a-half years, the BHA will argue that the hospitality industry will need continued access to the EU workforce after the transition period – this transition period cannot just be a cliff-edge for migration delayed by two years.”