Karen Bradley, the Culture Secretary, on Tuesday (10 October) sought to allay the hospitality industry’s fears over Brexit, when she spoke at the British Hospitality Association’s (BHA) annual Hospitality day reception in Parliament.
Mrs Bradley said the government was listening to industry concerns over the shortage of EU workers.
She said: “I’ve heard you, I know that you are concerned about it, we are very aware of this – acutely aware. The Prime Minister, you will have heard in her Florence speech, talked about EU labour and I recognise you want certainty, I want certainty, as soon as possible on this really important issue.
She continued: EU nationals have contributed an incredible amount to the UK economy and to your sector in particular and we want to make sure that you have the labour you need, and that you have the people you need to enable you to thrive and continue…. I know full well that the reason people come to Britain is because of all we have to offer and we have none of that to offer if we don’t have you providing them with great accommodation, great food, great places to drink, great places to socialise, and just making that whole experience wonderful.”
In her speech, Mrs Bradley thanked the BHA’s Chief Executive, Ufi Ibrahim: “for all the work you do leading the sector and representing the sector in parliament and with parliamentarians. You do an amazing job of making sure we hear your voice very loud and clear and I can assure you and everybody in this room, that your voice is heard, it is listened to. We do know how important you are to the UK economy.”
Over 200 BHA members visited Parliament to discuss the current situation with more than 40 MPs in a series of meetings, and at the reception.
The BHA told MPs that it welcomes the government’s ambition for a two-year transition period after Brexit, but still voiced concerns over the uncertainty surrounding what may follow.
Research commissioned by KPMG for the BHA shows that the UK hospitality sector is ‘highly reliant’ on EU workers, with up to 24% of its workforce made up of EU migrants. The BHA used this report to warn MPs that there any drastic change to immigration from the EU would change everyday life in the UK.
Ms Ibrahim said: “The BHA was heartened to hear the Secretary of State’s comments and we are thankful to her for ensuring that the government is listening industry. Businesses urgently need to see government taking the next steps to ensure hospitality, a top 6 employer in every region, is supported. This will mean redesigning the vocational education system so that young British people have the skills we need, including through the hospitality and catering T Level which has been delayed to two years after Exit Day.
We are optimistic about the role our industry can play in recruiting more British workers, and this is something we have set out in our 10-year strategy. However, with near full employment, this cannot be done overnight and we will work with the government to shape a post Brexit immigration system that works for our industry and for the nation.”