Migrant crisis

Anxiety grows over Brexit migrant worker crisis

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Solutions sought: how will hospitality keep the sector afloat without migrant workers?
Solutions sought: how will hospitality keep the sector afloat without migrant workers?

Related tags: Migrant worker

Urgent action must be taken by the Government to ensure pubs have access to thousands of vital migrant workers after Brexit, necessary to the future success of the on-trade.

The plea comes in light of a leaked memo to The Times ​today​ (15 November) from a Government consultant, claiming there was no overall Brexit plan.

However, the Government denied the claims made in the memo and said it “didn’t recognise” them.

Despite parliament refuting the criticism, industry leaders yesterday (14 November) expressed angst over a lack of clarity around the role of migrant workers in post-Brexit Britain.

“There are some challenges ahead of us,” former head of the British Hospitality Association Bob Cotton told delegates at a round table organised by accountancy firm Wellers.

Dependent on overseas’ staff

“We are dependent on employing people from overseas to our industry, we could do without [the Brexit issue], but we have to bring a solution.”

Cotton, who regularly consults the Government on hospitality, believed a permit system would be the best course of action to keep migrant workers in hospitality.

“The obvious solution is a work permit scheme, where sites get a block allowance and they get an allotment of, say, 200,000 people they can bring in a year from the EU.”

If this plan, which has been suggested to the Government, came to fruition then employers would be responsible for ensuring migrant workers left the UK at the end of their allotted time. They would also be responsible for migrant worker's actions.

Yet, other delegates picked fault with the idea, including Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers’ chief executive Kate Nicholls, who believed additional levels of bureaucracy would be bad for pubs.

Nicholls said: “In hospitality, 24% of workers come from the EU, it’s an acute problem the Government hasn’t got its head around.”

Sector very resilient

The sector was very resilient, which the Government was aware of, but its workforce is fragile, she added.

The message from the sector during Brexit is the "trade won’t strive" with the added pressure of recruitment issues.

A lack of migrant workers would just add to a cacophony of other issues the trade was facing, Nicholls continued. “The issues we have got coming down the track are business rates and national living wage and the pension auto enrolment.”

Government was also relying on hospitality to increase employment and profitability in the coming years, following success over the past five or six.

Meanwhile, another suggestion to plug the migrant worker gap would be to open up the border to young Europeans, who could work and travel around the UK freely for a set amount of time and until a certain age.

Related topics: Legislation

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