Several sectors of the UK economy have recently weighed in on the question of post-Brexit migration. In the hospitality and tourism sector, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) has expressed fears that post-Brexit immigration plans will leave the industry dramatically short-staffed, according to the Guardian. The Chief Executive of the BHA – an organisation that represents companies employing 3.2 million workers – wrote to immigration minister Brandon Lewis to explain that restaurants, bars, cafés, hotels and clubs would struggle to operate without migrants, European or otherwise. Currently, 12% of the hospitality workforce is from the EU, including 75% of all waiting staff. An end to EU migration would mean a shortage of 260 000 workers a year.
The construction industry has voiced similar concerns. In a trade publication the Chief Executive for the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), Brian Berry, has challenged a recent suggestion by Migration Watch UK that a drop in the numbers EU workers would not negatively impact the UK economy. Berry explained that “Migration Watch’s conclusion that there is no real need for EU workers flies in the face of the experience of key sectors like construction. The sector is undoubtedly facing serious skills shortages, and in certain areas of the country ongoing inflows of EU workers have served to mitigate this and help the industry and economy continue to grow.” In its recent survey the FMB found that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in construction would be hardest hit by restrictions to immigration.
Warnings in the hospitality and construction industries echo an academic study that estimates Brexit could badly damage the National Health Services (NHS). Jonathan Lis, deputy director of think tank British Influence, writes that “the key area of risk [for the NHS] is also the central plank of Brexit: restrictions on free movement of people.” 1 in 10 NHS doctors graduated from a European institution; Brexit has already led to sharp declines in the number of job applications from EU nationals (especially in nursing), while 10 000 of them have left the NHS in the last year.