Industry reacts to Government’s Brexit strategy by calling for more clarity for EU workers

Roxanne Allen, Young Chef

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) is calling on the government to provide clarity and ensure stability for businesses after Theresa May’s Brexit speech yesterday.

Chief executive of the ALMR, Kate Nicholls, said whereas departure from the European Union could provide the government with an opportunity to cut VAT for the hospitality sector, concrete action was needed to guarantee the right to remain for EU workers.

“The Prime Minister’s speech referred to the UK’s food and drink sector as a crucial one,” Kate said. “Recognition of the good work we do, and the positive contribution we make economically, is a good first step but it must be followed by decisive action.

“Departure from the European Union will provide the Government with an opportunity to cut VAT for the hospitality sector. With property and wage costs rising, a lower rate of VAT for pubs, bars and restaurants will free up some capital for employers allowing them to invest and grow.

“The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that securing the right to remain for EU workers is vital and this must remain a priority for our sector. We are still looking to the Government for concrete action rather than unconvincing reassurances and securing the right to remain for our enormously valuable team members is crucial to the ongoing success of the UK’s hospitality sector.”

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) echoed calls for more clarity on the rights of EU workers, 700,000 of which are employed in the hospitality and tourism sector.

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: “The BHA has already called for a 10 year timescale to provide employers and British society more time to adapt, considering that the industry employs well over 700,000 EU workers.

“In the meantime, it is crucial for the hospitality and tourism industry – the UK’s fourth largest sector – that EU migrants continue to be welcomed into our country.

“The impact of Brexit on labour shortages does not apply only to the technology and science industries but also sectors such as care and hospitality and tourism. Without EU workers our industry will be unable to welcome visitors from home and abroad and keep the UK going.”

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) welcomed Theresa May’s recognition of the value of the UK’s food and drinks sector and her support for competitive tax rates for businesses.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “It is heartening to hear the Prime Minister reiterate her support for competitive tax rates for businesses in the UK, and to hear her acknowledge the value of the UK’s food and drink sector to the British economy. Beer exports are third on the list of British food and drink exports, and are worth more than £550 million to the UK economy.

“British brewing is respected and admired the world over, and as new agreements with Europe and the rest of the world are developed, we will be urging the Government to ensure that we can export on a competitive footing and trade as freely as possible.

“Boosting current electronic trading arrangements, which at the moment facilitate the smooth trading of beer across borders, should be an important part of any new trade agreements.”

“It will come as relief to many working in our industry that, in leaving the EU, Britain will look to ensure that those already working in the UK have the right to remain here. Around 20% of workers in our pubs are not UK nationals, and it’s important to note that in metropolitan areas, particularly London and the South East, this figure will be much higher.

“It is important that British firms, particularly in the beer and pub sector, can continue to seek international talent for soft skills shortages, including non-graduates, in the UK, and we await further details of how any new work permit system might work.”

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