Cumbria Tourism has called on the Government to urgently rethink its latest post-Brexit immigration proposals or risk damaging the county’s £2.9 billion tourism sector.

The call for action has been made by the organisation’s chief executive Gill Haigh, after the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended new restrictions for low-skilled migrant workers when the UK leaves the European Union in March next year.

The MAC – an independent, non-statutory and non-departmental public body that advises the Government on migration issues – is recommending an end to preferential access for EU economic migrants and the introduction of significant restrictions on low skilled migrants entering the UK.

Its recommendations mirror those of a Home Office white paper leaked to the media earlier this year, and has sparked renewed concern among Cumbria Tourism’s membership.

Mrs Haigh described European workers as an “important asset” to the county in helping tourism and hospitality businesses deal with season spikes and labour gaps.

“If implemented, this policy has the potential to compromise the growth of our £2.9bn tourism sector and destabilise the county’s economy as a whole,” she said.

“Cumbria’s population is less than half a million and ageing fast, which means there is a limit on the number of eligible working age people. The current seasonal intensity also adds to the recruitment challenge.

“This means that European workers are an important asset here in Cumbria, so we are deeply concerned by recommendations that appear to make it harder for ‘low skill’ EU nationals to enter and support our tourism sector.”

Mrs Haigh added that it has been suggested that agricultural workers would be exempt from the latest proposals – another key industry for Cumbria – and urged the Government to adopt a similar approach with hospitality and tourism.

“This would ensure continued easy access to migrant workers and prevent the introduction of barriers which could hinder applications and threaten Cumbria’s economic productivity,” she added.

Cumbria Tourism has written to Tourism Minister Michael Ellis and Cumbria’s six MPs for their support in calling for the rethink.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron has also been busy writing to ministers, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, included in his hit list.

The Government is due to announce more details in a White Paper later this autumn.

Mrs Haigh has previously met with Government officials to discuss the challenges of restricting migrant workers on Cumbria’s tourism industry following the leak of the white paper earlier this, which set out a “more selective approach” to which EU nationals will be allowed to live and work in the UK, with an emphasis on cutting the number of lower-skilled workers.

Proposals included offering lower-skilled migrants a two years residency in the UK compared to the three to five years for those with higher skills levels, the introduction of income thresholds for EU citizens to prove they can support themselves, and a recruit local first policy for lower-skilled occupations which are not experiencing staffing shortages.

Concerns over migrant labour and uncertainty around Brexit and future trading relations were high on the agenda when tourism businesses in the county when they met with the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor for Financial Stability, Sir Jon Cunliffe, during his visit to the county in the summer.