Photo by Flickr user bigbirdz

Huh, seems like immigrant labor is pretty important after all

Margaret Eby
April 17, 2017

One of the economic wrinkles that Brexit is posing to the British economy is that, without the help of immigrants, the entire service industry would basically shut down. Restaurants, bars, and coffee shops need employees to work, and turns out that UK citizens aren't all that interested in taking jobs in them. As Grub Street pointed out, just one applicant in 50 applying for a gig at a UK Pret a Manger is British. Pret's director of human resources, Andrea Wareham, told a British parliamentary committee that if the chain were forced to employ a British-only workforce, it would be almost impossible to find enough staff to keep their locations running. 

Now multiply that problem by every other fast casual chain, McDonald's franchise, community coffee shop, or neighborhood pub in the entire country, and you can see what kind of labor catastrophe could be on the horizon when Brexit takes effect. So, according to The Sun, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has hit upon a plan of issuing strict two-year "barista visas" to the country for EU workers. 

The plan is based on one currently in effect for residents of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, dubbed the "Youth Mobility Scheme."  That visa allows 18 to 30 year olds who have  a certain amount of savings to live and work in the UK for up to two years, but prevents visa-holders from obtaining government benefits, and doesn't allow them to bring in family members on their applications. The barista visas presumably wouldn't have an age limit, but would operate with similar time constraints, and, like the Youth mobility Scheme, prevent visa-holders from access to public funds. 

Migration Watch UK chairman Lord Green backs the plan, noting to The Sun that it's a way to "meet the needs of pubs and restaurants and maintain our links with young Europeans by allowing them to come for a strictly limited period...They could work at any level but would not become long term immigrants who would add to the pressure on public services."

But not everyone is so chuffed about the idea. In The New Statesman, writer Stephen Bush calls the plan "a load of hot air." The hole in the plan, Rudd writes, is that it doesn't actually make working in the UK all that attractive. "Come to Britain to work in a coffee shop. If you get promoted? You can't stay. If you fall in love? You can't stay. If you set up a new business or established yourself as a writer while working at a coffee shop? You can't stay," he wrote. "It shouldn’t be revelatory to say this, but apparently it is: you can’t persuade people to come here if you are also trying to get those same people to leave."

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