A UK Brexit minister has said special allowance could be made for migrant workers to come and fill jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry if it can be shown they are needed.
On a visit to Edinburgh, Tory peer Lord Callanan, who has been number two at the Brexit department since 2017, said freedom of movement would end when the UK leaves the EU but the government was still consulting on what immigration rules should then apply. “If there is a necessity for immigration in certain sectors that is one of the things we will take into consideration.”
And he said there would be talks with the Scottish Government “to make sure the system we put in place works for the whole of the UK”.
Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce boss Liz McAreavey warned in 2017 the Capital could grind to a halt without migrant workers, saying there were some hotels where up to 95 per cent of their workforce are migrant European workers.
Lord Callanan said: “If they can demonstrate it is a sector of the economy that requires migrant labour then that is one of the areas that will be considered.
“Obviously the Government wants to look at all the different sectors of the economy and if there is a particular requirement, whether it be agricultural seasonal workers or tourism sector seasonal workers then arrangements will be made to permit immigration in those areas if it is strictly necessary.”
Despite predictions that Theresa May is facing a 100-vote defeat in next week’s vote on her Brexit deal, Lord Callanan said he believed the Government would win it.
“We’re working hard for that because I think the consequences could be quite chaotic if we don’t,” he said. “Negotiations are still continuing in an attempt to get the reassurances that parliament needs and if we can do that we are confident we can win the vote.”
He admitted even if Mrs May won the vote next week there would be a very short period to get the necessary legislation through. “But we remain confident we should be able to deliver it in time for exit day on March 29.”
He was also optimistic about a deal in the next stage of negotiations with the EU to protect financial services. “We are absolutely committed to making sure the UK continues to be the best place in Europe and one of the best places in the world to do financial services business. We are proud of our reputation both in the City of London and, of course, in Edinburgh.”
He said a good deal on financial services was just as important for companies and individuals in Europe as it was for the sector here. “The Bank of England governor has said it would be even more damaging for the EU than for the UK.”
And he played down fear over job losses as finance companies switched operations to mainland Europe.
He said: “There is no evidence of substantial transfer of employees so far. There have been one or two announcements but there have been some inward investment announcements as well. The dire predictions made a couple of years ago just have not come to pass. If they were going to go those decisions would have been taken by now.”