Pret a Manger HR director warns MPs over Brexit as 65% of the cafe chain's employees are EU nationals

Just one in 50 of the applicants for a job at the high street chain is British

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The director of human resources of high-street chain Pret a Manger has told a parliamentary committee that the company may struggle to attract staff once the UK leaves the EU, as just one in 50 of the applicants for jobs at the firm is British.

Pret a Manger employs people from 110 different nationalities, with 65 per cent of those from outside the UK being EU citizens, Andrea Wareham told the House of Lords economic affairs select committee on Wednesday as they heard evidence about the impact of the Brexit vote on different sectors of the economy.

“I would say that one in 50 people that apply to our company to work is British,” she said.

“If I had to fill all our vacancies in British-only applicants I would not be able to fill them... because of a lack of applications,” she added.

Ms Wareham said she doubted higher wages would draw UK citizens to the industry, after being questioned by Labour peer Lord Darling, who sits on the committee.

She said: “I actually don’t think increasing pay would do the trick, I can only talk for Pret on this, but we do pay well above the National Living Wage, we do have great benefits and we offer fantastic careers.

“It really is a case of do people want to work in our industry?

“We are not seen always as a desirable place to work and I think that’s the trick.”

Pret a Manger has about 300 restaurants in the UK and an additional 100 globally in countries such as France and the US.

Also giving evidence, Tim Martin, the founder of pub chain JD Wetherspoon and a vocal Brexit campaigner, said Britain could not afford to put the brake on immigration.

“For the UK to be a successful country and economy in the next 20, 30, 50 years, we need a gradually rising population and that will need some type of reasonably controlled immigration,” he said.

“If we don’t get it, I think the economy will tend to go backwards.”

Brexit Secretary David Davis has previously suggested that the UK could not just “suddenly shut” the door on immigration, because it would take “years and years” to fill jobs in sectors that rely heavily on migrants, such as hospitality and social care.

Additional reporting by PA

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