Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBIT) said leaving the EU without a deal would be a “catastrophic” blow for hundreds of small travel businesses.
Spokesperson Diane Palumbo said the lack of progress on vital details of Britain’s exit agreement – such as those concerning posted workers – had placed a “sword of Damocles” over thousands of younger people in the travel sector, many of whom history suggests will go on to head up travel’s largest firms.
Palumbo told TTG Theresa May’s assertion a withdrawal deal was “95% settled” was “disingenuous in the extreme”. “It’d be really useful to know that direction of travel,” she added.
On the issue of the 25,000 seasonal workers in travel, Palumbo, who cut her teeth as a rep, said the UK and Europe alike had benefited from the EU’s Posted Workers Directive.
“We simply have no idea what’s going to happen to them,” she said. “Some of our members are in complete limbo. It [Europe] is a training ground for 18- to 24-year- olds. We are at risk of losing an entire generation of business leaders in travel.”
Palumbo said a failure to agree new terms on posted workers would subject employees to more costly social security regimes and significantly reduce the labour pool available to both the UK and EU.
Her comments echoed those of Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tour Operators’ Association, who told TTG the lack of certainty over deployment of overseas workers post-Brexit was forcing many operators to enact contingency plans.
Palumbo, meanwhile, said there simply would not be time to implement systems like European driving permits and an Esta-style visa system, as set out previously in a series of UK and EU technical notices.
“A no-deal Brexit would be simply catastrophic,” she said. “It would cause irreversible loss to our competitiveness. The UK outbound travel market generates £34.3 billion a year and sustains around 214,000 jobs. We are putting all of that at risk.
“We are an extremely resourceful and resilient industry, not fearful of change. But the calls for a no-deal Brexit are a triumph of identity politics over evidence. If we don’t speak up, we will be asked why we didn’t let the public know what is coming.”
Palumbo hailed the work of Abta and Aito for their advocacy on behalf of the industry, adding SBIT would continue to lobby for a sensible deal championing free movement for workers and write to the government to set out its demands.