THE prospect of the UK crashing out of Europe in a “no-deal” Brexit is continuing to worry Cumbrians who work in tourism, says a local expert.

Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, spoke out as a fresh study suggested that as many as 700,000 tourism jobs nationally could be wiped out if no deal can be secured before the UK bows out of the EU at midnight on March 29.

According to some experts, a Brexit crash-out could to leave an £18.6bn hole in Britain earnings. But how is all of this uncertainty - and the fear of a crash-out - affecting tourism providers in Cumbria now?

Mrs Haigh said: “As Cumbria’s official destination management organisation, Cumbria Tourism undertakes regular surveys with tourism businesses to track long-term trends and business performance, and we analyse factors affecting the sector.

“We are monitoring the situation and tracking the feedback we get from our members.

“Our research repeatedly demonstrates that Brexit is a significant cause of concern and uncertainty for our members; and our recent business performance survey, sponsored by Lamont Pridmore, revealed that the main areas are: border controls for visitors, import tariffs, impact on overseas visitor numbers, the potential for increased operating costs and for many, the recruitment and supply of EU workers.”

Tourism is vital part of Cumbria’s rural economy, said Mrs Haigh.

She said: “Cumbria Tourism has been lobbying hard over the last 20 months or more to raise awareness of all these issues at the highest levels, including at the Home Office, VisitBritain, and with the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Media and Sport, the House of Lords and via our own MPs.

“Cumbria has a unique rural economy that is heavily reliant on tourism, a sector which in 2017 generated £2.9bnn and supported 65,000 jobs.”

Some 308,000 UK-based roles and a further 399,000 in European Union states would be at risk if Britain left without a Withdrawal Agreement, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Its analysis looked at how a no-deal departure on March 29 might affect UK tourism in the next decade.

Gloria Guevara, the president and chief executive of the WTTC, said: “The UK is the fifth largest travel and tourism economy in the world.

“Given its importance to the UK economy it is now clear that a no-deal Brexit would have a dramatic impact on one of the UK’s most important economic sectors.”