Trade bodies welcome pre-Brexit plans to assess EU worker contributions

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Reliant: over 700,000 EU citizens currently work in hospitality and tourism within the UK
Reliant: over 700,000 EU citizens currently work in hospitality and tourism within the UK

Related tags: Immigration

The Government’s plan to assess the economic contribution of EU migrants has been welcomed by leading trade bodies within the food and drink industry. 

Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced today in the Financial Times​ that the Government is to commission the Independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to carry out a detailed analysis of the economic and social contributions and costs of EU citizens in Britain.

The committee is due to report back its findings in September 2018. The information provided will then be used in formulating the UK’s immigration policy after it leaves the EU in March 2019.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said the setting up of the committee was “a positive step” from the Government but said that clarity for businesses is overdue.

“It is absolutely vital we have in place a system that is not burdensome, costly or overly bureaucratic and provides employers with access to employees,” she said. “A report that understands and appreciates the value of, and need for, migrant workers should be a benefit.  

“It would, however, have been useful if the Government had set about this task immediately after the referendum. Extra time for the Government to assess the overall picture and for businesses to plan would have provided much-needed certainty and clarity.   

“The ALMR has been highlighting this issue for a year and pressing the Government for a proper examination of this issue since the referendum. We will continue to do so, to ensure that no burdensome requirements are made of eating and drinking out businesses during the short period between the report’s publication and Brexit.”

'No cliff edge'

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said the organisation would be taking up Rudd’s call to engage in the process, stating that it was “essential” the rights of EU employees within the sector was safeguarded.   

“I very much welcome the review by the Migration Advisory Committee – it is vital there is a full understanding of the skills needs of all sectors, including the soft skills that are so vital to many pubs,” she said.

“For pubs, around 20 per cent of the current UK pub workforce is from overseas, and this figure rises to 40 per cent-plus in metropolitan areas. The Home Secretary’s assurances today, that there will be no ‘cliff edge’, are therefore very welcome. Employers need more certainty in this key area, so they can plan staffing and training needs for the future.

“It is also vital that the existing rights to work in the UK of our much-valued employees from the EU are safeguarded. The UK government is, I know, working on this as a priority, and it is an issue I hope can be resolved as soon as possible in the Brexit negotiations."

European workers still needed

British Hospitality Association (BHA) chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said the hospitality industry was determined to rely less on EU service workers, but warned that this would take time.

“Over 700,000 Europeans work in hospitality and tourism,” she stated. "In March KPMG published a report, commissioned by the BHA, which showed that in the event of free movement ending and no successor regime being put in its place, the industry would need to recruit an additional 65,000 UK workers each year in addition to the ongoing recruitment of 200,000 workers to replace churn and to power growth. 

“Our industry recognises that immigration policy needs to change, however at a time when unemployment is at its lowest since 1975 we will still need access to the European workforce.

“The BHA has been campaigning for several months for an enlarged role of the Migration Advisory Committee and welcome the Government commissioning the MAC to undertake a detailed study on EU workers with businesses throughout the country. 

“We believe this should go further and the MAC should advise government on the number of visas for all strategically important sectors including hospitality and tourism, the fourth largest industry in the UK.

“Britain needs services workers as well as scientists and engineers and we look forward to having a serious dialogue with the Home Secretary as we get into the detail of a new immigration law.”  

Earlier this month more than 20 organisations, including several pub industry bodies, wrote to the Government outlining their Brexit priorities​ to help protect the food and farming sector.

Among the recommendations in the letter was the need to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ departure from EU and to deliver zero tariff trade across borders.

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