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02 Jan 2019

Mixed response to government's immigration white paper

There has been a mixed response to the government's immigration white paper, published last month.

The document sets out proposed new laws for a post-Brexit Britain and includes plans to allow "tens of thousands" of low-skilled migrants to enter the UK to work for up to a year.

Intended to last until 2025, the measure is intended to protect parts of the economy reliant on overseas labour – including leisure sectors such as tourism and hospitality.

There is, however, little consensus on whether the proposals do enough to tackle the shortage of staff faced by employers, once the UK leaves the European Union – especially in a no-deal scenario.

The government anticipates the reforms included in the post-Brexit system will result in an 80 per cent drop in long-term workers from the European Economic Area.

One of those to have commended the proposals – which include changes to the tiered system for working visas – is The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

“We welcome the Immigration White Paper and its recognition that migrant workers play an important role in the UK economy," said BBPA CEO Brigid Simmonds.

“While through the proposed Tourism Sector Deal we will be working hard to recruit and retain more UK nationals, the announcement of an additional transitionary short-term work visa for workers from low-risk countries will also be welcomed by our sector.

“The white paper has outlined that the Government does not intend to require visitors from the EU to require a visa to travel to the UK. This is good news for Britain’s brewers and pubs who are a vital part of the countries tourism industry.

“Overall, the Immigration White Paper is more positive step than had been anticipated."

Among those to have criticised the proposals is UKinbound – the lobby group representing some of the UK's largest tourism companies.

“Recruiting and retaining good staff in the inbound tourism industry has always been a challenge but in the last 12 months our members have repeatedly told us that finding staff – particularly those with proficient language skills, is now their single biggest issue," said UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft.

“Over a third of staff in the inbound tourism industry are from the EU and their language and customer service skills are vital when meeting and working with our inbound visitors and negotiating with overseas operators.

"However, many of these staff earn under £30,000 and restricting this pipeline of workers could see tourism businesses start to suffer and fail. We urge the Government to re-think the salary cap for our industry, which in 2017 generated over £24.5bn for the UK economy.”



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