EU nationals 'higher quality and more eager' workers than UK citizens, government report finds

Brexit could be 'disastrous' for some industries if government carries out its plan to cut immigration because European workers play a 'sometimes vital' role, businesses warn

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 27 March 2018 13:38 BST
Immigration after Brexit: What's it going to look like?

EU nationals are “higher quality and more eager” workers than British citizens and it could be “disastrous” for some industries if immigration is reduced after Brexit, a government report on migration has found.

The report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) reveals UK businesses view European migrants as more motivated, flexible and willing to work longer hours than the domestic labour force.

Experts said many firms in lower-skilled sectors had built a business model in which the availability of migrant labour from the continent played an important and “sometimes vital” role.

The report took evidence from more than 400 businesses, industry bodies and government departments as part of a major inquiry ordered by home secretary Amber Rudd.

Employers indicated that workers from the European Economic Area (EEA) were “more motivated and flexible than UK-born workers”, including a greater willingness to work longer and unsociable hours, and said they were often better qualified for the jobs they do.

The accommodation and hospitality sector emerged as being particularly at risk, with nearly half (43 per cent) of workers in restaurants, fast food stores, hotels and pubs originating from outside the UK, according to evidence submitted to the committee.

It showed there were already signs of shortages of low-skilled workers in this sector, with reports from businesses of vacancies not being filled and increased advertising for staff or the use of agency labour to fill gaps.

Employers in the hospitality industry warned that if they were denied the availability of EU workers, the economic impact would be “somewhere between difficult and disastrous” for many hotels.

Farmers also told the committee they relied on the continued provision of seasonal workers from the EU. Following the publication of the report, farmer Guy Poskitt told the Victoria Derbyshire show: “We can’t find enough local workers for difficult and unsociable shifts.

“If we haven’t got access to non-UK workers we cannot run our business. That’s not looking at the doom and gloom – that is fact.”

Responding to the report, Labour MP David Lammy said the results were "deeply worrying", adding: "Instead of taking jobs away from people living in the UK already, immigration helps to stimulate our economy.

"After Brexit we're facing down the barrel of slower growth and, crucially, fewer jobs available. It might be politically unpopular, but the truth is that our economy needs migrants to fill the jobs that Brits won’t do or lack to the skills to do.

"No one voted to be poorer and certainly no one wanted to vote themselves out of a job.”

Satbir Singh, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the report was another piece of evidence demonstrating the failure Theresa May’s immigration policy.

"It’s clear, that the main challenge for a post-Brexit Britain with an ageing population will be to continue to attract the migrants that keep our NHS and economy running,” he continued, adding that this would require a “complete rethink” of the Government’s handling of immigration.

Official figures have shown falls in net migration from the EU since the referendum, with an estimated 90,000 more long-term EU migrants having arrived in Britain than left in the 12 months to September 2017.

This was the first time net migration from the bloc had dipped below 100,00 since the year to March 2013, and the lowest figure recorded since 2012.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to controlled and sustainable migration. The British people want control of our borders, and after we leave the EU we will ensure that we can control immigration to Britain from Europe, putting in place a system which works in the best interests of the whole of the UK.

“This system will be based on evidence, including from the MAC, and on engagement with a range of stakeholders, including businesses, universities, the Devolved Administrations and NHS leaders.

“We welcome the MAC’s interim report and will consider its evidence in full when it publishes its final report in September.”

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