Net EU migration has fallen year-on-year for a fourth successive quarter, posing an increasing threat for the industry.
According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, the total number of EU migrants entering the country year-on-year has remained steady at an estimated 213,000. However, the number leaving has increased.
Comparing the year ending Q2 2018 to 2017, some 19,000 more EU nationals have left the country, continuing the steep rise in EU migrant outflow that began in 2016. The net figure for the year – 75,000 – is the lowest since 2012.
Meanwhile, non-EU migration grew, prompting a boost to overall net migration. An estimated 289,000 people from outside the union travelled into the UK in the year ending Q2 2018, a rise on the previous year of 71,000.
The move comes as the government looks to introduce a new immigration system post-Brexit. The policy is expected to restrict migration for “low-skilled workers”, setting up potentially devastating barriers for the hospitality industry.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “A fall in the number of EU migrants is seriously worrying for hospitality employers. We need workers from the EU to bolster our home-grown workforces and keep pace with growth, particularly with unemployment so low.
“This staffing shortfall will only become more acute if the government pushes ahead with a plan to exclude many potential hospitality workers as part of its future immigration policy. If businesses do not have access to the workforce, how are they expected to hire people, grow their businesses and invest?
“Should the tier 2 test on skills and salary be applied to all post-Brexit migrants, as currently proposed, we estimate that 80%-90% of potential hospitality jobs would be excluded.
Ibrahim Dogus, chair of the British Takeaway Campaign, also expressed concerns, and said: “Today’s statistics, showing a further drop in EU net migration, will worsen the skills shortages for the UK’s takeaway sector.
“With over a third of takeaway restaurants experiencing skills shortages, particularly for chefs in specialist cuisines, and more than a third saying Brexit will make it more difficult to recruit staff, this drop further puts at risk the sector’s potential growth of 13% by 2021, which would see takeaways contributing £5.1b a year to the economy.
“If we are to have a supply of chefs with the right skills to meet these shortages, it is imperative that the government allows for a transition period that gives sufficient time for the training of domestic workers.
“Even with a transition period, though, more needs to be done to overcome the recruitment gap. That’s why we are urging the Migration Advisory Committee to use its review of the shortage occupation list to address the absurd anomaly which allows for the recruitment of specialist chefs for restaurants, but, bizarrely, not for those working in takeaways”.