EU worker cap a 'disaster' for Northern Ireland hospitality trade
A cap on the number of EU workers being allowed into the UK after Brexit would be a "disaster" for Northern Ireland's hotels, bars and restaurants.
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, was responding to reports that the Government is considering placing a restriction on low-skilled workers entering the UK, after it exits the EU.
"These reports are deeply alarming and would prove to be a disaster for the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland," he said.
"To limit entry to the UK based on specific skills and to place a cap on migrant workers without the deemed skills would critically hamper and undermine the development of the hospitality sector in NI, which sustains 60,000 jobs and contributes £1.1bn to the economy annually.
"By 2024, just seven years from now, we will need an additional 2,000 chefs and in total the sector will have over 30,000 job vacancies to fill over the same period.
"The reality is that we cannot fill those positions by recruiting from Northern Ireland alone, especially given our low unemployment rate.
"Currently one in five of the workforce in the hospitality sector in NI is accounted for by foreign workers.
"It is clear that access to migrant workers is essential if we are to continue to build a strong, prosperous hospitality sector."
Neil Carberry, CBI managing director for people and infrastructure, said: "An open approach to our closest trading partners is vital for business as it attracts investment to the UK.
"And, with employment high, it also helps keep our economy moving by addressing key skill and labour shortages."