The British Hospitality Association (BHA) warned of “major recruitment problems” as the Brexit process began, while the UK Chamber of Shipping hailed the “automatic” return of duty-free sales on trips to the EU.
The BHA reported the hospitality sector faces a shortfall of 60,000 staff a year, or of one million workers within a decade of Brexit.
A report by consultancy KPMG on behalf of the BHA found EU migrants make up to 24% of the sector’s UK workforce – 75% of waiters, 25% of chefs and 37% of housekeeping staff.
BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said: “It’s clear that hospitality and tourism face major problems in recruitment if there is any major cut in the number of workers allowed to enter from the EU.”
The BHA has proposed a 10-year strategy of recruitment and training to the government to address this.
However, Britain’s biggest trade union Unite suggested the hospitality sector “only has itself to blame” and called for “a sea change” in the way the industry operates”.
Unite regional official Dave Turnbull said: “This is an impending crisis of the industry’s own making. Workers are driven from the industry because of its low wage, long hours and exploitative culture.”
At the same time, the UK Chamber of Shipping welcomed the start of the Brexit process, saying duty-free sales would “automatically” return on cross-channel ferries following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
Duty-free sales on ferries and flights between the UK and EU ended in 1999, replaced by shopping free of tax (VAT).
Intra-EU duty-free was worth £391 million a year to the ferry industry at the time.
Responding to reports that ministers would “carefully consider” reintroducing duty-free on cross-channel routes, UK Chamber of Chipping chief executive Guy Platten said: “This could be a game changer for the UK ferry sector.”
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