The Pizza Pasta & Italian Food Association (PPIFA) revealed that more than half of the workforce currently working in food businesses across the UK would have to leave if there is no agreement made with the EU and Brexit is completed.
The body has also claimed most of these workers could not be replaced by British nationals and, without overseas workers, the trade would struggle to provide the level of service consumers have come to expect and many businesses may be forced to close.
This comes after Prime Minister Theresa May detailed the UK’s offer on EU nationals' employment rights as part of Brexit negotiations, guaranteeing that none would be asked to leave at the conclusion of Brexit.
The proposals, which will only be put in place if they are reciprocated, have said any EU citizen currently in the UK with five years' residency, at a specified cut-off date, will be granted settled status.
However, PPIFA director Jim Winship claimed these proposals does not give confidence, nor does it deal with the ongoing requirements of the hospitality trade.
He said: “The uncertainty over Brexit is already being felt. Some workers from overseas have already started leaving because they feel insecure and this is not helped by the weak pound.
“Unless the Government gives some real assurances soon, this could turn into a flood and many of our member businesses would struggle."
“Although Theresa May has made a statement that those EU nationals resident in the UK for more than five years would be offered residency – if the EU reciprocates with UK nationals – this does not deal with the ongoing needs of the hospitality industry.”
Unskilled and semi-skilled workers
He claimed about 40 to 50% of the trade's national workforce comes from outside of the UK and in some areas, such as London, it is as high as almost three quarters (70%).
“Many of these are relatively short-term and transient ‘immigrants’ who will stay for a year or two, get experience and then go home,” Winship added.
The association is calling for the Government to introduce a visa system that would allow unskilled or semi-skilled workers into the country for a limited period to take up vacancies that cannot otherwise be filled.
Winship said: "The vast majority of these workers do not stay in the UK long term. However, without them, our industry will struggle because there simply aren't the people here to fill the vacancies."