Brexit immigration uncertainty ‘catastrophic’ for supply chains

9 January 2018

The government risks supply chain disruptions by not bringing forward the publication of a review into the future of EU workers in the UK, a trade association has claimed.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents the logistics industry, said the government was being “irresponsible” by leaving EU workers in the dark about their future in the UK and delaying a decision could have a damaging effect on all aspects of the UK supply chain.

The Home Office has said it does not have the power to force the independent body conducting the review to publish its findings early.

James Hookham, deputy CEO of FTA, said UK businesses needed time to plan efficiently in the run-up to Brexit. “Leaving crucial members of the workforce under a cloud of uncertainty as to their legal status and right to work in the UK is an irresponsible move,” he said.

“If those EU workers are to be denied access to work as the UK leaves the European Union, their employers need to know now so that plans can be made.”

The FTA has called on the government to speed up the publication of a report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) – an independent body sponsored by the Home Office – which will advise on what the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system should look like. Hookham said the late publication of the MAC’s findings could be “catastrophic for the continuity of the supply chain.” 

“FTA urges the Home Office to provide the necessary information to business now, so that adequate planning can be undertaken, and calls on the government to provide the support required to ensure that sufficient skilled and train staff will be available to keep Britain trading once Brexit happens,” he said.

A spokesman for the Home Office said it does not have the power to force the MAC to publish its findings before it is ready, but the committee was on course to meet a September deadline.

MAC has also announced there will be an interim report this spring. 

The Home Office said it continues to work on its own immigration proposals, which will be guided by the MAC review when published.

FTA estimates there are 311,000 skilled and semi-skilled EU nationals that are “crucial” to the logistics workforce, and that the sector already has a shortage of more than 35,000 drivers of vans, forklift trucks and large goods vehicles. 

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