Theresa May has suggested she will fight proposals to give EU citizens who arrive in the UK during the Brexit transition period the right to remain in the country.
Speaking in China the Prime Minister said there had to be a difference between those arriving before and after the departure date of 29 March 2019.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, responded by stressing that overseas workers were integral to the growth of hospitality businesses while the Food and Drink Federation called for clarity at a time when the industry sits on the edge of a skills crisis.
Earlier this week the EU said citizens arriving during the transition period, which it expects to last until 21 December 2020, should be subject to the same rules as those who arrived before 29 March 2019.
Guy Verhofstadt, the EU parliament’s Brexit lead, told The Guardian that citizens’ rights during the transition period are “not negotiable”.
In December the government said that EU nationals who have been in the UK for more than five years can expect to be granted settled status. Those who have been in the UK for less than five years, but arrive before a cut off date, will be allowed to stay and apply for settled status when they reach five years of residency.
Nicholls said: “The Home Affairs Committee’s advice to the Government recommends a future immigration policy that takes into account the needs of the UK, and UK businesses, and promotes an evidence-based framework.
“We agree with the findings of the Committee: Hospitality businesses will need to augment their UK workforces with oversees workers if they want to continue growing. A transparent, evidence-based system that acknowledges the needs of hospitality businesses is a sensible and desirable outcome for employers in need of clarity.”
A spokesperson for the Food and Drink Federation said: “The food and drink industry faces a looming skills crisis with our sector requiring another 130,000 new workers in the next ten years.
“The UK and EU27 must provide clarity soon so businesses can plan with confidence for the future – whether that be during the proposed transition period or once we’ve left the EU.”