Abta has warned the UK’s proposed new skills and immigration reforms will likely have a “very damaging effect” on travel businesses reliant on EU workers.
The government set out on Tuesday (18 February) its vision for post-Brexit immigration policy, proposing not to offer so-called low-skilled workers visas under the new system.
Under a new points-based immigration system, the Home Office said employers would be encouraged to move away from “cheap” European labour and instead focus on retaining and developing existing staff.
Under the proposed new rules, EU and non-EU citizens would be treated equally once free movement between the UK and EU ends on 31 December.
“It will give top priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents, including scientists, engineers and academics,” said the Home Office.
However, Abta said the arrangements would place 15,000 travel roles reliant on the EU Posted Workers Directive – the rules allowing firms to station reps and other support staff overseas while remaining subject to British social security mechanisms – at risk.
“We hope the government will engage with and listen to businesses to ensure the right policies are in place for our industry to continue to succeed,” said Abta.
“It is vital the industry continues to have access to the talent it needs. The travel and tourism industry is committed to investing in skills and training, but with record low unemployment rates, immigration policy also has an important role to play.
“The lack of a temporary regime will not give businesses sufficient time to transition to new arrangements and will likely have a very damaging effect on businesses reliant on EU workers.”
Abta added reciprocal arrangements in respect of posted workers must be a key tenet of the government’s trade talks with the EU “to secure a reciprocal youth mobility scheme with EU countries”.
Seasonal Businesses in Travel, a coalition of more than 200 British outbound travel and service companies, has previously warned young people are likely to be disproportionally affected by the end of posted workers rights, which could potentially rob travel of a generation of talent.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the end of temporary immigration "confirmed many of the worst fears of businesses in the sector".