While the government may have announced on January 21 that it has waived the application fee for EU Settled Status applications, the Freight Transport Association says people are still no clearer on what future immigration will be allowed in the case of a no deal.

Sally Gilson, FTA’s head of skills says: “Not only do we face a cliff edge for the supply chain moving goods but also for the people driving our goods across the UK.

“European workers are a key supporter of the UK’s complex supply chain, undertaking vital roles in all areas of moving goods and services across the country to support manufacturers, retailers, schools, and individuals. The news that the Settled Status Scheme is finally open to selected applicants is encouraging, but too little too late – three million people cannot be processed in eight weeks and there is no system for employers to check right to work.

“In addition, businesses still cannot make plans for their workforce after March, with the Future Immigration White Paper still to be ratified. This is unacceptable after two years in which government could have clarified the situation to ensure consistency in the supply chain – which, after all, underpins every facet of daily life. It seems ludicrous that government has itself confirmed that businesses cannot check EU workers’ right to work until a suitable system is in place – so how and when is this to be possible?”

As Ms Gilson continues, there is now little time to enable employers to confirm roles for vital workers within the supply chain, and the threat of a No Deal outcome to Brexit negotiations is adding another layer of uncertainty and potential jeopardy for businesses which rely on EU workers to enable efficient operation:

“FTA represents more than 17,000 logistics businesses nationwide, and our members are concerned that job offers made now to EU citizens for roles starting after March won’t be legal in the case of a No Deal. How are businesses to plan for seasonal peaks in the supply chain when it is impossible to confirm who they are able to employ and when?”

“This lack of clarity is jeopardising peoples’ jobs, and their lives in the UK. In December the Government published the White Paper for Future Immigration, during which a consultation on the salary threshold for EU workers was promised. That has not been forthcoming and employers need to know whether they can recruit outside of UK post Brexit for roles earning under £30,000? Will job offers starting after March 29 still stand? Will a system be ready to check the right to work? Will frontier workers, who live in the EU but commute to jobs here, still be free to work in the UK?

“Despite FTA asking government repeatedly for clarity on employment of EU workers for the past two years, the spectre of a No Deal edges ever closer each day without any confirmation on who can work here, when and how. This game of recruitment roulette is wreaking havoc with peoples’ lives, and with the UK’s complex supply chain that supports every element of our nation’s economy – how is this allowed to continue? Logistics is a flexible, adaptable industry, but needs to know the parameters in which it is expected to operate – and there is precious little time available to implement new working practices.”