The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has critcised proposals set out in a document leaked from the Home Office last month, suggesting that free movement of labour would end immediately after Brexit, thereby preventing all but the most highly skilled EU workers from entering the UK.
With EU workers accounting for 13 per cent of HGV drivers and 26 per cent of warehouse operators, the association warned that if such a policy were to be implemented in March 2019 when the UK is scheduled to formally leave the EU, it could severely impact the supply chain network over the subsequent festive season.
“Who’s going to deliver Christmas 2019 without the EU drivers and warehouse staff?” said James Hookham, FTA deputy chief executive.
“Logistics is so important to the British economy. If we want to keep Britain trading then we need to be finding ways to solve the existing skills shortage and not exacerbating the problem. Without these proposed restrictions there’s already an acute shortage of around 30,000 HGV drivers.”
He continued: “We are already starting to see an exodus of existing EU drivers because of uncertainty, the devaluation of the pound after the Brexit vote, and a more general disrespect for the great value they bring to our economy and society.
“Whilst we support policies that are intended to make migrants and the country better off, disrupting the logistics industry would certainly have the reverse effect. Government policy needs to be more targeted and support and protect our vital industries, such as logistics, in the interests of everyone.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) also added its voice to the dissent over the leaked proposals, warning that they could have a “devastating effect” on the sector.
“It suggests that low-skilled EU workers will only be allowed to remain in the UK for two years, and that is if they pass the much stricter rules of entry,” said the association.
“The RHA calls for any decision made on immigration to be one that does not discriminate against those with lower skills levels, and that we have a competent workforce to enable our sector to function reliably in the future.”