Minister of State for Immigration Brandon Lewis tells Katherine Price the Government is within “touching distance” of a deal with the European Union guaranteeing the rights of European hospitality workers in the UK
How are you ensuring the future of European hospitality workers in the UK in your Brexit discussions?
We’ve been clear that guaranteeing the rights of European Union (EU) citizens in the UK and the rights of British nationals abroad has been our priority in the Brexit negotiations – and we are now within touching distance of an agreement.
Those who are living in the UK, working in the hospitality industry, will be allowed to stay and continue to do the jobs they do with broadly the same rights they currently enjoy.
We plan to roll out our settled status scheme for EU nationals next year and recently set out more detail of how the system will work. The process will be streamlined, low-cost and user friendly, with EU citizens involved in the design process every step of the way.
Hospitality leaders are concerned that rising costs, tighter consumer purse strings and tougher restrictions on immigration could altogether unfairly impact the industry – how are you ensuring the numbers add up?
What I’ve told sector leaders in my meetings with them is that the government is doing everything it can to support the businesses they represent. In the areas I cover, we’ve made it easier to come to the UK on business or on holiday, for example by moving the application process online, and we’ve seen thousands more visitors as a result.
We’ve commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) – our independent experts – to provide advice on the role EU citizens currently play in the economy. This will provide evidence on the workforce needs of every sector, in every part of the country, so that we can build an immigration system that works for the whole of the UK.
They’ve already been taking evidence from businesses and representative groups, among others. The evidence and recommendations they come back with will help us to decide on future immigration policy.
Will the findings be published?
We commissioned the MAC back in July and they’re entirely independent of Government so we’re leaving them to get on with this important, and significant, piece of work. We’ve asked them to consider whether they can produce interim reports and their final report will be published in September next year.
Are you consulting with hospitality representatives such as a the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR)?
I’ve met with the BHA and ALMR, along with a number of other hospitality trade organisations, to hear their views. Regaining control of our immigration system will help us to bring net migration down to sustainable levels, but we’re working with businesses to get this right.
Free movement will end when we leave the EU, but we’ve been clear that there will be no cliff-edge. A transition period where EU citizens will continue to be able to come to the UK to work will ensure a smooth transition for businesses.
What do you say to the European workers in this country who no longer feel welcome? Are you concerned at the numbers who are already leaving, being put off coming to this country or concerned about their jobs?
I want to be clear that European workers are welcome in the UK. They are our friends, our colleagues and our neighbours and we do not want them to leave. They make enormous contributions to the United Kingdom and we are doing everything we can in the negotiations with the EU. And we’re designing a simple, online process that will help them get the new legal status they will need when free movement ends – this won’t cost any more than a passport application.
Is the plan still to double the Immigration Skills Charge to £2,000 for non-EU workers?
The government is committed to building home-grown skills and the introduction of the immigration skills charge incentivises employers to invest in training. This investment is vital to becoming less reliant on overseas workers, helping to upskill and reskill young people and the unemployed. The skills charge came in in April this year so we’ll take stock ahead of making any changes.
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