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Government's immigration plans branded 'disastrous' for hospitality and leisure

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The Government's post-Brexit plans to stop "low-skilled workers" from entering the UK has been described as "disastrous for the hospitality sector".

The Home Office has tabled plans to bring in a points-based immigration system, which will result in EU and non-EU citizens coming to the UK treated equally from 31 December 2020 – when the UK-EU free movement agreement is set to come to an end.

Under the new system, points are scored for higher-level qualifications and for having an offer of a skilled job with an "approved sponsor".

The hospitality sector has reacted with horror to the proposals, with a number of industry leaders questioning the rationality of the Home Office plans.

“Ruling out a temporary, low-skilled route for migration in just 10 months’ time will be disastrous for the hospitality sector and the British people," said UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls.

“These proposals will cut off future growth and expansion and deter investment in Britain’s high streets. It will lead to reduced levels of service for customers and business closures.

"Hospitality is already facing an acute labour shortage, despite investing significantly in skills, training and increasing apprenticeships for the domestic workforce.

"We're facing record low levels of unemployment, a dip in young people entering the labour market and have the highest vacancy levels of any sector.

“This announcement fails to recognise that hospitality is at the heart of every community in the UK.

"Damaging the hospitality sector will have a knock-on effect for schoolchildren and the elderly who rely on the sector for their meals. The Government says it is making allowances for staff in the NHS, but it has totally ignored the catering companies who supply the meals to patients and staff.

"We understand the government’s desire to deliver on the referendum result – but these proposals fail to deliver on the government’s own objective of providing an immigration system which works for the UK’s economy and its people.”

Dave Gosling, a hospitality sector specialist at accountancy firm Menzies, said the plans will make the shortage of workers in the sector even worse – and could spell the end for many companies.

"Today’s immigration plan is a major blow to employers in the hospitality and leisure sector, many of which have come to rely on a steady stream of migrant workers from the EU," Gosling said.

"Employers will be deeply concerned that they will not be able to fill jobs and wages could start to rise, due to the shortage of supply.

"At a time when many pubs and restaurants are already struggling to manage rising costs in an intensely competitive market, this immigration plan will force costs to increase further and add to cashflow pressures."

In response to the criticism, home secretary Priti Patel said the government wanted to "encourage people with the right talent" and "reduce the levels of people coming to the UK with low skills".

"We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential," she added.

Quick Facts - The UK's new points-based immigration system

• The new system will award points for an appropriate job offer, English language skills, and a salary threshold. The education threshold will be reduced to A-level (Higher Secondary School Certificate or equivalent) from degree level, and the general salary threshold is being reduced to £25,600 from £30,000. Applicants will be able to ‘trade’ characteristics if they do not meet all the requirements. Tradeable points will be given for salary, a job offer in a specific shortage occupation, and educational qualifications.

• The UK Home Office has pledged to publish further details on the system "in due course", including detailed guidance regarding the points tables, shortage occupations and qualifications.

• The new arrangements will take effect from 1 January 2021, once freedom of movement with the European Union has ended.

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The government's post-Brexit plans to stop "low-skilled workers" from entering the UK has been described as "disastrous for the hospitality sector". The Home Office has tabled plans to bring in a points-based immigration system, which will result in EU and non-EU citizens coming to the UK treated equally from 31 December 2020 – when the UK-EU free movement agreement is set to come to an end. Under the new system,
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The hospitality sector has reacted with horror to the proposals, fearing it could lead to further staff shortages / Shutterstock
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