The government’s proposed new skills and immigration policy could harm the UK’s efforts to negotiate new arrangements on posted workers, it has been warned.
Seasonal Businesses in Travel (Sbit), a coalition of more than 200 outbound travel and service companies, believes the Home Office’s points-based system will test the EU’s willingness to agree a new scheme to replace the reciprocal EU Posted Workers Directive, which will cease to apply from 1 January 2021.
The new rules seek to reduce reliance on what home secretary Priti Patel described as “cheap” European labour. Under the proposals, EU and non-EU citizens would be treated equally.
Diane Palumbo, Skiworld sales and marketing manager and Sbit spokesperson, told TTG the government’s proposals represented a "triumph of political ideology over practicality”.
Abta warned the lack of a temporary skills and immigration regime would not give businesses time to transition to new arrangements, the likely result being a “very damaging effect” on those reliant on EU workers. “It is vital the industry continues to have access to the talent it needs,” said Abta.
“As the government prepares to enter trade talks with the EU, new mutual arrangements will be needed to replace the benefits of the EU Posted Workers Directive, which sustains 15,000 UK-based jobs, and to secure a reciprocal youth mobility scheme with EU countries.”
Palumbo said the proposals could damage Britain’s prospects post-Brexit. “We must have an international outlook,” she said. “To deny people these opportunities is so short-sighted – it’s the very thing that should lead us forward after Brexit.”
She added she had, however, been buoyed by early conversations with EU partners. “I trust they will see sense where the UK government does not.”
Palumbo said Sbit would continue to lobby the government to ensure the UK retains a strong working relationship with the EU.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, echoed Abta and Sbit’s concerns. “The end of temporary immigration has confirmed many of the worst fears of businesses in the sector,” she told TTG. “And there is very little time for businesses to adapt.
“For many businesses, the fear is these proposals will cut off future growth and expansion of sector businesses, deterring important investment in Britain’s high streets. Consumers will also suffer, seeing reduced levels of service for customers, and likely business closures.”