Boris Brexit rules to blame for airport disruption – Not enough EU workers in the UK

Brexit rules have caused delays at airports says expert

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Boris Johnson’s ministers have criticised the travel industry for staff shortages that have caused massive disruption to air travellers ahead of the four-day Platinum Jubilee weekend. Arts minister Lord Stephen Parkinson took direct aim at the industry, saying the Government had been warning “they should have been prepared for this.”

“It is causing a lot of stress for people, particularly at half term, people with their families and children with them. It is very distressing if you turn up at the airport and your flight isn’t ready”, Lord Parkinson added.

But to Paul Charles, former Virgin Atlantic and Eurostar director, the Government’s new Brexit rules are to blame for the disruption.

Speaking to Times Radio, he pinpointed the issue: “Well, one of the big failings, I’m afraid, is the government not letting enough European workers into the UK.

“Our analysis shows that nearly a third of jobs in the travel industry in this country are traditionally filled by European workers. And of course, since Brexit, those rules have changed, which have prevented European workers coming in, in the main, to work in the industry.

“So, that’s why it’s struggling. It can’t find enough workers from overseas as well as in the UK.”

Under the new points-based immigration rules, only skilled EU workers are allowed to work in the UK post-Brexit with the employer’s sponsorship. EU citizens who lived in the UK before 31 December 2020 had the right to apply for the settlement scheme which gives them the right to work in the UK with no further restrictions.

Mr Charles continued: “And I appreciate, absolutely, the industry is not always paying well enough. The wages are not high enough, the baggage handlers or security processes. And the industry has got to take a good, long, hard look at that.

“But fundamentally, government rules not only during the pandemic, but since Brexit, have disabled the sector. They really haven’t helped the sector at all to recover.”

Like in many other industries, Boris Johnson’s Government has supported airlines with the furlough scheme so that companies could retain aviation staff during the pandemic.

However, some airlines such as British Airways laid off 10,000 staff at the start of the pandemic and have so far only rehired 2,000 staff, prompting staff shortages and long queues at airports across the country.

Raising those figures, Times Radio’s host Callum Macdonald then said: “That’s a fault on the part of the airline there.”

Mr Charles defended: “Well, they have been offering golden handshakes of around £1,000 and still been struggling, of course. But that’s partly because they’re not attracting or able to attract those European workers.

“But let me put one thing to you, Callum”, Mr Charles said.

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Mr Charles said: “I think it’s unfair for the Government to say they’ve given all this money to the industry. Yes, they have supported the industry. But the furlough scheme ran out in September last year or at the end of September pretty well.

“And of course, the government then shut down the industry in December because of the Omicron variant, but there was no extension to the furlough scheme. There was no extra support to the airline industry or the airports.

“And fundamentally, they haven’t helped as much as they’ve said. It’s no wonder the industry has struggled to get back together again.”

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