Brexit secretary David Davis has said it would take "years and years" for British workers to fill jobs that are currently done by EU immigrants in industries such as hospitality, agriculture and social care.
Davis spoke out as an attempt to reassure individuals and businesses in Europe that there would not be a sudden shift in policy, and that Britain is not going to ‘shut the door' on EU workers.
Speaking on a visit to Tallinn, Estonia, Davis said: "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.
"Don't expect just because we're changing who makes the decision on the policy, the door will suddenly shut. It won't."
He also claimed that Britian's successful economy was down to the "clever" and "talented people" coming to Britain.
However, the remarks have stirred up a reaction with pro-Brexit figures such as Arron Banks, a major donor to UKIP, who claimed it was "quite astonishing".
He told the Times: "If you look at the figures, most people who voted for Brexit did so because of immigration and are going to ask what the point of it was if we don't even control our own borders. They are going to be very disappointed. But the Tories have always been the party of business so it is of no surprise that the government has sided with them over the voters."
The government is still aiming to reduce net migration to below 100,000 a year following Brexit.
Yesterday the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said that without the help of over 75,000 seasonal workers, crops would rot in the fields leaving Britain in danger of not being able to feed itself.
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has been calling on the government for reassurance that EU workers can stay in the country following Brexit since the results were announced in June last year.
Chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said the decision to leave the UK has "altered the future of the sector, which is now laden with opportunities and threats".
The Lake District Hotels Association (LDHA) also slammed the government last month following a proposal to charge a £1,000 levy fee for each EU worker coming in to the UK after Brexit.
Tim Rumney, vice chair of the LHDA, said: "Several of our member hotels employ European workers, many of whom have worked their way up through the ranks to management positions and built careers for themselves here and are now fearing for the future of their jobs. We are already struggling to fill positions from food and beverage service right up to heads of department because of an absence of good applicants. This policy would pull the rug out from under our ability to employ quality staff from overseas and add even more cost and red tape into our industry.
"What we now need to see is some form of clarity and reassurance on how Brexit will affect European workers in the UK."
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