UK considers ‘barista visa’ to stave off post-Brexit hospitality staff panic

UK considers ‘barista visa’ to stave off post-Brexit hospitality staff panic

The so-called ‘barista visa’ is dividing opinion, but it’s pretty clear that the UK will have a big gap to fill in the labour market if it ends EU freedom of movement.

To say there’s a lot of uncertainty around Brexit is an understatement. for some it amounts to panic, especially for people from overseas, particularly Europe, living and working in the United Kingdom.

So, the Home Office is reportedly looking into what has colloquially been termed a ‘barista visa’. It was was first suggested by Lord Green of the think-tank Migration Watch UK.

What is a ‘Barista visa’

In short, it would be implemented to allow EU nationals to work in the country’s low-skilled sector once it leaves the EU. It’s similar to the current youth mobility scheme, which allows 18-to-30-year-olds from non-EU countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong to work in the UK for up to 24 months. Visa holders can’t claim benefits, attend school or extend the visa.

Migrant labour is a critical part of the United Kingdom’s economy

You know that old right-wing trope of “coming over here, stealing our jobs”. Well, it’s actually nonsense. For example, just one applicant in 50 recently applying for a gig at a UK Pret a Manger (a coffee shop chain that also sells light meals) was British. And as much as 65% of Pret’s current employees come from the EU.

The trend is similar in many other fast food chains and bars.

In total, EU nationals make up 7% (2.2 million) of Britain’s total labour market of 30.3 million, according to the Office of National Statistics.

So, if (when) EU freedom of movement is ended, it’s going to have a pretty big impact on the UK economy.

Criticism of the barista visa

Not everyone is in favour of it, though. Writing in The New Statesman, Stephen Bush called it “a load of hot air.” His criticism is that the proposal isn’t actually that attractive to prospective migrants.

“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.

But plenty of Aussies come to work in the UK on that basis, right? Well, some critics argue that the youth mobility scheme hasn’t necessarily been that successful either, so there is no guarantee a similar sort of visa for EU nationals would work.

But the threat to the UK’s labour force is real

As a number of analysts – and the Pret application story – suggest, the lack of interest from British youth to apply for those jobs could have a pretty serious impact on the hospitality industry. We’ve not even delved into the stats for hotel staff yet.

TOP IMAGE: Via Pixabay