West End retailers battle staff shortages amid Brexit uncertainty

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Grimsey high street

London’s tourist hotspots are under threat from staff shortages according to property magnate and Shaftesbury Group chief executive Brian Bickell.

Bickell told City AM that a combination of visa restrictions and uncertainty around EU migration rules has led to a shortfall in workers at London’s busiest shopping destinations.

Bickell, whose Shaftesbury Group represents almost 600 West End businesses focused around Carnaby Street, Seven Dials and Chinatown, is now concerned that much-needed immigration from Asia is being stalled by Home Office laws.

“Just recently we have had a restaurant in Chinatown pull out of a deal because they couldn’t find the staff to come. It’s had a notable impact here… It shouldn’t be unreasonable to find Chinese chefs for Chinese restaurants,” according to Bickell.

He added: “We also need to make it easier for people to apply for visa online. For every 10 Chinese tourists coming into Europe, only one is coming to London… that’s not enough.

“At the moment there is also lot of uncertainty over whether European staff can stay, which is causing big problems for our retailers. European staff are going home, and the next generation that is set to come here needs to replace them.”

The comments come as home secretary Sajid Javid on Monday presented the Cabinet with a post-Brexit immigration model focusing on economic need, as he called for EU and non-EU workers to be able to come to the UK on the same terms.

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