Brexit secretary David Davis has been urged to repeat his comments about not shutting the door to EU workers, but this time on UK soil.
The call, from the British Hospitality Association's government affairs director Vernon Hunte, came after Davis admitted while in Tallinn, Estonia, earlier this week, that it would take "years and years" for British workers to fill jobs currently performed by EU immigrants.
Speaking at the Embassy of Ireland in London last night at a Shannon College of Hotel Management alumni reception where he was guest of honour, Hunte said: "You may have seen the headlines in the papers about David Davis speaking in Estonia and he said ‘don't worry, we are not going to shut the door in 2019 to people who want to work in the British hospitality industry' and I think the British Hospitality Association certainly welcomes that comment.
"He did say it in Estonia - I'd like him to say it closer to home, to an audience here, so that he can explain to them why access to the skills and talent of EU labour is so important in this industry."
Hunte said that the BHA had prioritised the question of workplace access and is expected to launch a report soon examining the current strength of the EU workforce in hospitality in the UK.
He also highlighted the fact that Brexit and the storm that went through British politics in 2016 had changed the way in which the hospitality industry should look at its future in the UK in Ireland.
He praised the Irish government's "forward-thinking" approach, especially on matters like tourism VAT. Irish businesses currently pay half the 20% rate paid by business in the UK.
And he said it was crucial that the UK continued to be seen as open to Europe and to the world. "With particular mention to Ireland, the importance of avoiding a hard border for tourists, workers or any citizens travelling is going to be crucial," he added.
Speaking at the event in Estonia earlier this week, Davis had said it would take many years for British workers to fill jobs that are currently done by EU immigrants in industries such as hospitality, agriculture and social care. The Brexit Secretary was seeking to reassure individuals and businesses in Europe that there would not be a sudden shift in policy.
"In the hospitality sector, hotels and restaurants, in the social-care sector, working in agriculture, it will take time. It will be years and years before we get British citizens to do those jobs," he said.
"Don't expect just because we're changing who makes the decision on the policy, the door will suddenly shut. It won't."
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