EU referendum: Businesses defend free movement and issue warning on Brexit

 
Jake Cordell
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Employers are concerned that employing EU migrants and training UK citizens were not mutually exclusive
Employers are concerned that employing EU migrants and training UK citizens were not mutually exclusive (Source: Getty)

Restrictions on EU migrants would cause long-term damage to a number of UK businesses, a new report has said, as employers claimed Brexit could stifle their ability to grow.

Firms in the construction, hospitality, and food and drink sectors told the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (Niesr) that they struggled to hire British workers to fill skills gaps and needed access to EU migrants.

Businesses were worried that if Britain votes to leave the European Union on 23 June it would hold back their ability to expand their business since they would not be able to substitute EU workers for British ones.

Read more: Brexit or no Brexit - we need free movement

“In the short term, some employers were concerned that EU migrants might lose their right to live and work in the UK,” Niesr said in a report into free movement launched today.

Businesses called on the government to maintain some degree of free movement even in the event of Brexit.

Read more: Campaigners spat over free movement of EU migrants

“Our research with employers in three key sectors leaves no doubt that restricting their access to this source of labour could have significant and damaging effects on many companies and the jobs of the British workers they employ,” Niesr said.

Poor career guidance in schools, along with the negative image of certain industries had deterred young UK citizens from seeking careers in certain industries, employers said, which meant they were compelled to recruit from overseas.

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