Friday, 15 September 2017

'Auf Wiedersehen, Pret': London warned of Brexit exodus of EU workers.

International workforce: 
Pret a Manger Alamy Stock Photo
London was today warned of an  “Auf Wiedersehen, Pret” exodus of EU workers as Brexit gets closer.
Tens of thousands from EU countries including Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic work in restaurants, cafes and hotels in the capital. Many more EU citizens are employed in the City, the NHS, on building sites, at universities and in other jobs.

As London Mayor, Boris Johnson highlighted what was dubbed the  “Pret a Manger phenomenon” with thousands of young Eastern Europeans coming to the capital to work in fast-food and sandwich outlets, rather than young people already here doing the jobs. But a growing number of workers whose countries joined the EU in 2004 are now believed to be returning home after the Brexit vote and the slump in the value of the pound.

The trend appears to mirror the journeys of the seven British construction workers in Eighties TV comedy-drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, who leave behind their wives and girlfriends to find jobs on a building site in Düsseldorf, Germany, but end up returning home.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said: “London has benefited hugely from EU workers coming to work in the hospitality and other sectors. Unfortunately, a growing number of them are now saying ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pret’ and leaving the UK.

“Brexit presents a major threat to London and yet the Government is not investing sufficiently in training British workers to address labour shortages.”

Latest figures showed the number of Eastern Europeans working in the UK whose countries joined the EU more than a decade ago fell below a million in the three months to June.

There were an estimated 997,000 employees from the so-called EUA8 countries which joined the union in 2004 — Czech Republic, Estonia,  Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. This number was down by about 11,000 on a year earlier and it is the first time since the referendum that it has dipped below a million.

There are 148,000 EU nationals who work in London in restaurants, hotels and distribution, according to the latest ONS figures, 189,000 in banking and finance, 109,000 in construction, 33,000 in manufacturing, 123,000 in public administration and 82,000 in transport and communications.

Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “This apparent Brexodus is hugely worrying but sadly not surprising.”

He called on ministers to give EU nationals here a “cast-iron guarantee” that they will have the right to remain after Brexit in March 2019.

He added: “Nearly a third of our construction workers are EU nationals. At a time when we need to address the housing crisis and invest in infrastructure, this workforce is more important now than ever.”

A leaked Home Office document suggested that after Brexit, low-skilled EU migrants would be offered residency for a maximum of two years and those in “high-skilled occupations” would be granted permits to work for three to five years.

By Nicholas Cecil.

Culled from Standard.

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