The suggested reduction £7,500 reduction in the wage threshold for European workers post-Brexit is still not enough, a leading figure in Cumbria’s tourism industry has warned.

Jennifer Cormack, sales and marketing manager at Cumbria’s most popular tourism attraction, Windermere Lake Cruises, called for the Government to think further on its wage cap for EU workers following a meeting with immigration minister Caroline Nokes, to raise concerns over the pressing issue facing the county’s tourism businesses.

Tourism businesses and politicians in Cumbria and across the UK reacted with anger when home secretary Sajid Javid initially suggested £30,000 wage threshold.

He has since instructed the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) – which is guiding the Government on its post Brexit EU immigration policy – to take a fresh look, with a revised figure of £22,500 now being floated.

But Mrs Cormack, who is also a committee member for the Cumbria branch of the Institute of Directors, said that even that drop would not be enough.

“The average wage in hospitality in our area is £17,000,” she said.

“Reducing the initial £30,000 threshold to a suggested £22,500 isn’t enough. The cost of living and therefore wages, are different here to in other parts of the country.

“The findings of the MAC seem to be London centric, with no understanding or reference to the effects that the £30,000 threshold will have on the North West.

“While Windermere Lake Cruises has very few staff from the EU and isn’t directly affected by this, other businesses we work closely with like hotels have already lost employees and it’s very likely this reduction in staff levels will continue to rise.

“Already, there is significant evidence of hospitality businesses struggling or even failing to recruit in this area,” she added.

The current proposals would bring EU migrants in line with workers from the rest of the world. It would mean that they would have to find a job which pays at least £30,000 a year to stay in the UK longer term.

The move has met with fierce opposition from organisations including Cumbria Tourism, individual businesses, along with politicians including Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, whose constituency is responsible for generating around half of the county’s £3 billion a year tourism sector.

Mr Farron, who also attended the ministerial meeting, says there are more than 20,000 non-UK workers helping to prop up the tourism industry in the region, which has low levels of unemployment and a decline in the working age population – raising fears that restricting entry could cause a significant and damaging gap in the workforce.

And with Cumbria having welcomed 47 million visitors in 2018, operators argue the workforce needs to grow to cope as the rising trend in ‘staycations’ and the increasing popularity of the region following the Lake District’s inscription as a World Heritage Site.

The meeting discussed the potential for a one-year term for migrant workers to offer businesses some security, with evidence that some had already left the UK due to the uncertainty being created by Brexit.

Mrs Cormack – who was joined by representatives from Lake District Country House and travel operator Mountain Goat Tours at the meeting – said Mrs Nokes was taken aback by the quandary Cumbria, and more specifically the Lake District, is facing.

“Caroline Nokes was warm and receptive to our concerns and was eager to both listen and learn, but surprisingly, she wasn't aware of how low local unemployment is in Cumbria and therefore how heavily Cumbrian tourism businesses rely on EU workers,” she said.

“She also didn’t realise that 80 per cent of jobs in our region are hospitality-based. In fact, high-serviced areas of accommodation, food and drink are two of the largest areas of spend here.

“There’s also the debate over who is and who isn’t defined as a ‘skilled’ worker. We strongly believe that excellent customer service is a skill, for example.”

The timing of a final decision on the salary threshold is unclear, as the new date of October 31 for Britain to leave the EU continues to be at the forefront of the Conservative leadership race debate.