Tourism industry leaders have made fresh calls for clarity on Brexit as the government plunged into crisis this week, writes Ian Taylor.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls demanded ministers “secure a Brexit deal that delivers our workforce and supply needs”.
Addressing the association’s conference in London on Monday, she warned of “real and significant threats to our industry”.
Tourism minister Michael Ellis told the conference: “The workforce challenges of Brexit will be most acute for hospitality.”
However, he promised: “We’ll take steps to give as much certainty as possible.”
That did not satisfy Travelodge chief executive Peter Gowers, who said: “We’ve been arguing for clarity for some time. It’s not enough to just carry on. Half of all workers in hotels in London are from the EU.
“If we don’t have a guest-worker programme, we’ll have hotels with no one to make the beds and an understaffed NHS.”
Gowers said: “The clock is ticking and it’s time to tell the truth. We can’t suddenly replace the workforce the day after Brexit.”
Bourne Leisure director Dermot King agreed, saying: “We employ 16,000 staff and half are non-British.”
Cody Bradshaw, head of European Hotels at Starwood Capital Group, said: “The danger is to the UK’s brand reputation.”
Investor Luke Johnson, partner at Risk Capital Partners, said: “My biggest fear is [Labour leader] Corbyn might get in. I’m taking [investment] money off the table.”
The conference took place as foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit secretary David Davis resigned after prime minister Theresa May appeared to have won approval for a ‘soft’ Brexit plan, widely backed by business.
Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s replacement as foreign secretary, warned of “Brexit paralysis” if more Tory MPs turn against May.
The pound fell against the dollar and euro following the resignations, with analysts warning a leadership challenge would drive it lower.