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Restriction on ‘Low-Skilled’ Migrants Post-Brexit Could Be ‘Catastrophic’ for the Hospitality Industry

Leaked memo obtained by The Guardian met with consternation in the hospitality sector

Brexit could have a dramatic effect on the hospitality industry
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Leaked documents obtained yesterday by The Guardian reveal the UK Government’s plans to “deter EU immigrants” post-Brexit. The Home Office paper, says the newspaper, “sets out detailed proposals including measures to drive down number of low-skilled migrants from Europe.” Thus ending the free movement of people and labour after Britain exits the European Union.

The paper, which is at a draft stage and has not been signed off by ministers, states the terms on which EU immigrants will be able to live and work in Britain. So-called “low-skilled” (into which those in the hospitality sector fall) migrants will be offered residency for a maximum of only two years. Those in “high-skilled occupations” will be granted permits with the opportunity to work for a longer period — three to five years.

The plans have been met with consternation in the hospitality industry.

Today Ufi Ibrahim — CEO of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) — released a statement saying that, if implemented, the proposals would be “catastrophic.” She also sought to remind the Government about the country’s need for so-called “unskilled” workers.

“If these proposals are implemented it could be catastrophic for the UK hospitality industry and for those who enjoy the hospitality it brings — whether it be in restaurants, theatres, hotels, bars and tourist attractions,” Ibrahim said.

“The Government need to be urgently reminded that so-called unskilled workers in hospitality — the ambassadors for our country — are necessary. It is not just the bankers and the lawyers that are needed to fill the employment gaps. Our research, from KPMG, shows that at least 60,000 new EU service workers are needed per year just to fill the vacancies in hospitality.”

Ibrahim also pointed out that 75% of waiters and 25% of chefs in the UK are EU nationals: “And in London and the south-east, especially, some business rely totally on EU service workers. The UK has near full-employment so where are the recruits going to come from for the UK’s fourth largest industry that employs over 4.5 million people nationwide?”

Although Ibrahim said “the BHA has already submitted to the Government a 10-year-plan to encourage more UK people to consider a career in hospitality,” she called the proposal to allow “unskilled” workers to remain in the UK for less time than “skilled” workers “deliberately discriminatory.”

Victor Garvey, the chef and restaurateur who operates three London restaurants, Encant, Sibarita and Rambla, told Eater London: “I could go on a pretty long and explicit tirade about the clusterfuck that will be the hospitality industry post-Brexit.

“I think one of the highly ironic things about calling hospitality workers "unskilled" is that the same Government has imposed mandatory food safety training (HACCP) where if you take it to level 4, it can take up at least a year's time and cost you upwards of £5,000. This is not to mention the culinary and hospitality degrees that many EU immigrants undertake at great personal expense and work through in tandem to their "low level" waiter/commits chef jobs. It's hypocritical at best, downright fucking criminally negligent at worst.”

The restaurant publicist and former restaurant writer, Hugh Wright said in an email to Eater London, that the moves “might as well be a death warrant for the effect it will have on hospitality.”

Meanwhile, Ian Wright, Director General of the Food and Drink Federation, added his concerns: "Food and drink manufacturing, Britain's largest manufacturing sector, will be alarmed by the proposals contained in the document published by The Guardian. If this does represent the Government's thinking it shows a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution that EU migrant workers make — at all skill levels — across the food chain. It also undermines the role and creation of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). We will continue to work with Government and MAC to ensure a practical and evidence based way to proceed."


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