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Lake District hotel owners fear closure post-Brexit

There are an estimated 10,000 EU migrants working in Cumbria Photo: PA

Owners of hotels in the Lake District fear they could face closure if tighter restrictions on migrant labour are put in place after Brexit.

This follows a survey by Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, which asked businesses if they employed EU migrants and what the impact would be if numbers were restricted.

The survey also asked if job applications from migrants had declined since the EU referendum and if any migrant staff had left to return home.

The Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said:

At one end of the spectrum, we had businesses telling us they didn’t employ any migrant workers and that restrictions would have no effect.

At the other, there were businesses concerned they would be unable to function and might close if the supply of migrants dried up.

We estimate there are at least 10,000 EU migrants working in Cumbria, and the bulk of them are in the hospitality and food processing industries.

These two sectors have the most at stake. In the Lake District, we found hotels where 50% of the workforce are migrants.

But it isn’t only businesses that employ migrant workers that expect to be affected by restrictions.

Particularly in Eden and South Lakeland, where there is near full employment, any reduction in the pool of available labour would exacerbate recruitment difficulties for all businesses.”

– Rob Johnston, Chief Executive, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce

A number of migrant workers are reported to have already gone home.

One business said that applications were “down significantly” and another said that job enquiries from migrants has stopped completely since the referendum.

The Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce added:

More than 16 months after the EU referendum, we are no clearer as to what restrictions on migrant labour will apply after Brexit.

Our survey shows that some Cumbrian businesses would struggle to function without migrant workers, and we have made that point very forcefully in the submission to the Migration Advisory Committee.

Our survey also explodes the myth that migrant workers are low or semi-skilled.

We found examples of highly-qualified migrants in the nuclear industry, for example. They may be few in number but their contribution is huge.

– Rob Johnston, Chief Executive, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership estimates that the county will need 80,300 additional workers by 2021 to replace workers lost through retirement and outmigration, and to fill new jobs.