The rights of EU citizens to work in Britain is a key referendum issue, says chief executive of the Institute of Hospitality Peter Ducker
The referendum on European Union (EU) membership is a personal decision for the British people and you would not expect me to come down on either side. But what is interesting is to look at the arguments which are relevant to hospitality, from both points of view.
The UK hospitality industry employs a large proportion of migrants, many from Europe. In London, 69% of the hospitality workforce were not born in the UK, and at a national level nearly a third of all UK hospitality managers are migrants. In a recent poll conducted by The Caterer, those in the ‘remain' camp thought that leaving the EU would result in ‘reduced staff availability.' Those in the ‘leave' camp cited ‘more jobs for British workers' as a key reason for leaving the EU. Would Brexit result in more Britons entering hospitality? Not in itself, but it could act as a catalyst and it's something that many industry leaders want to happen. Perhaps losing some of our European workers would give us the extra spur needed to finally make our wonderful sector appealing to our home-grown workforce.
But to get to my main point, having said all the above, the information being put forward in this debate is still sketchy. Where are the facts? Do we know for sure that Brexit will reduce staff availability? Has the 'leave' campaign clearly spelt out what rights EU citizens will have to work in the UK? What would happen to those already living and working here? Equally, does the 'remain' campaign have a credible vision of how staying in the EU and free movement can be made sustainable in the long term? So far, we are not getting the answers we deserve.
There are so many questions about what an exit from the EU would mean for Britain and so many variables at play, it seems likely we would only discover the real consequences once we had actually left. Equally, at a time of increasing crisis for the EU, Britain's future, if it stays, is by no means easy to read.
\* The Institute of Hospitality is committed to providing credible and fact-based scenarios that will help us make a truly informed choice on 23 June. That's why we will be hosting and reporting on a major, sector-specific In Out Debate in May. Check www.instituteofhospitality.org for full details
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