Calls for clarity over post-Brexit immigration system

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Immigration worries: the pub sector has shared its concerns about immigration policy in a no-deal Brexit scenario
Immigration worries: the pub sector has shared its concerns about immigration policy in a no-deal Brexit scenario

Related tags Immigration

Pub bosses have shared concerns about the end of freedom of movement, following the Government’s confirmation it will end immediately if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May suggested the EU rules would be slowly phased out but, under Boris Johnson, the change will impact EU citizens arriving in the UK from November onwards.

There have been calls from the pub industry for the Government to confirm what immigration policy will look like in the event of a no-deal scenario – with some pressing for an implementation policy.

Industry chiefs have called for clarity about hospitality workers who come to the UK after 1 November but before a new immigration policy is in place.

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said the sector was reliant on overseas workers and the Government should clarify the situation. 

She said: “The Government has taken great steps to safeguard the rights of those EU citizens in the UK ahead of Brexit. 

“Although the majority of staff in the sector are home-grown, businesses do need to look to overseas talent to augment their teams.

“We now need more certainty for those that come to the country from 1 November until a new immigration policy is in place.

“A situation akin to the implementation period would be welcomed by business. 

“We would urge Government to share their proposals on the status of EU citizens after Brexit and reiterate their guarantees to current EU citizens.”

Multi-site operator Oakman Inns CEO Peter Borg-Neal said although a no-deal “would be both disruptive and economically damaging”, the trade should not jump to panic.

Post-Brexit confusion

He said: “There is no need for an over-reaction to this particular piece of news. It has always been apparent that freedom of movement would automatically end when Brexit occurs.

“I suspect that today’s announcement is nothing more than noisy sabre rattling and some form of clumsy negotiating ploy.”

“I am more focused on what happens next in terms of what the arrangements will be post-Brexit. 

“Many of my colleagues within Oakman Inns are EU nationals from outside the UK, and they make a huge contribution to the success of the business.” 

The pubco wants confirmation that guarantees currently in place to safeguard the position of EU citizens already living and working in the UK will not be tampered with.

Borg-Neal added he wanted “the earliest possible guidance regarding what the new immigration policy will look like and reassurance that it will be designed to meet the needs of UK business, in general, and the hospitality industry in particular”.

Consider consequences 

Fuller’s Inns managing director Jonathon Swaine also called on policymakers to think of the industry.

He said: “The Government needs to consider the consequences of a sudden reduction in the labour market.

“Our European colleagues are a big part of the Fuller’s success story and we have helped a number of them secure permanent residency. 

“We will continue to help ensure as many as possible have a secure position in the UK before the Brexit deadline – whenever that might actually be.”

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds reiterated concerns about the sector’s ability to plug recruitment gaps.

She said: “EU nationals are hugely important to our sector’s workforce.” 

A survey of the BBPA’s members showed 17% of the brewing and pub workforce are employed from overseas, with this figure rising to 40% in metropolitan areas and up to 80% in some specialist areas like kitchen staff. 

She added: “Our industry was already facing a skills shortage before the decision to leave the EU. Not allowing EU nationals who have not applied for ‘Settled Status’ to live and work freely in the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit will be yet another burden for publicans and pub operators.” 

She joined those calling on the Government to reiterate guarantees to current EU citizens living in the UK.

City focus

Many readers on The Morning Advertiser ​Facebook page said they would not feel an impact should freedom of movement cease suddenly in November because of their pub’s rural locations. 

One pub operator wrote: “It looks like most of the impact will be in the hotel trade in the city’s and holiday resorts.. small towns, villages and out of city areas will probably not be affected much, as bars are normally staffed by local sources.”

Another said: “I doubt no impact, perhaps a positive impact if any. Most of my rural locals want a Brexit party.”

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