New proposals to manage immigration after Brexit would be disastrous for the county’s hospitality and food sectors, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is warning.
The Government’s Migration Advisory Committee has published a report advocating an end to low-skilled immigration, arguing that employers will be able to recruit the staff they need from the UK workforce.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “That isn’t the case here. Research we carried out last year identified that there are at least 10,000 EU migrants working in Cumbria, mostly in the hospitality and food processing industries.
We found hotels in the Lake District where 50 per cent of the workforce are migrants and we spoke to hoteliers who genuinely fear they might have to close if the supply dries up.
“We found hotels in the Lake District where 50 per cent of the workforce are migrants and we spoke to hoteliers who genuinely fear they might have to close if the supply dries up.
“The Committee argues that businesses will have time to adapt because migrant workers won’t leave overnight. The problem in the Lake District is that there isn’t a pool of labour to replace them. The people just aren’t here.”
He continued: “Food businesses have a different issue. Many supply supermarkets who will resist attempts to raise prices.
“If those food businesses have to pay higher wages to attract local workers, their profit margins will be squeezed.
“It’s not only businesses employing migrants that are affected. If migrant workers go, all employers will be fishing in the same dwindling pool of local labour.
“Then there is the demographic factor. Cumbria’s working-age population is projected to fall by 9.5% by 2030.
“We need to attract younger people to come and live here just to sustain the businesses we have, never mind grow. These proposals will make that harder.”
Cumbria Chamber submitted its research findings as part of the British Chambers of Commerce’s response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence last autumn.
Rob added: ”We made a cogent and compelling case for a flexible immigration policy that meets the needs of employers. It is bitterly disappointing that the Committee hasn’t listened.
“We are writing to all six of Cumbria’s MPs, asking them to lobby against these proposals, which will without doubt damage businesses here.
“And we will work with the British Chambers of Commerce to ensure that the challenges facing Cumbrian business are recognised at a national level.”
Also read Migration and Brexit: What Cumbrian businesses really think here