Hospitality bodies UKinbound and the British Hospitality Association (BHA) have had their say on leaked government documents that appear to suggest immigration targets will be met by reducing the intake of low-skilled EU migrants after Brexit.
The 82-page paper – leaked to the Guardian and subsequently widely covered in the media – showed the government was considering reducing the numbers of low-paid EU workers, putting caps on the time they can spend here, and making it harder for them to bring family members over to the UK.
It was reported that there would be a minimum income requirement for anyone wanting to stay in the UK.
Deirdre Wells OBE, UKinbound’s chief executive officer, said: “Last year, the UK tourism industry contributed over £22 billion to the UK economy and can attribute its success in part to the large number of EU nationals it currently employs.
“Employing these workers is vital for our tourism industry if it is to keep going from strength to strength.”
Wells went on to say that any system that reduces the welcome would “severely damage” the industry’s capacity to grow.
Ufi Ibrahim, the chief executive of the BHA, called the plans to only allow low-paid migrants to stay for two years while allowing those in higher paid jobs a maximum of five as “deliberately discriminatory”. She also suggested it was “not just the bankers and lawyers that are needed to fill the employment gaps”.
Ibrahim said: “If these proposals are implemented it could be catastrophic for the UK hospitality industry and for those who enjoy the hospitality it brings. The government need to be urgently reminded that so-called unskilled workers in hospitality – the ambassadors for our country – are necessary.”
The BHA conducted research with the KPMG suggesting that at least 60,000 new EU workers were needed to fill hospitality vacancies.
The research also showed that 75% of waiters, 25% of chefs and 37% of housekeepers in the UK hospitality industry were EU nationals.