LAKE District hoteliers have expressed fears they could be forced to close if stringent restrictions on migrant labour are imposed after Brexit.

The findings come from a survey by Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, which asked businesses if they employed EU migrants and what the impact would be if numbers were restricted after Brexit.

The survey also asked if job applications from migrants had declined since the EU referendum and if any migrant staff had left to return home.

Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “At one end of the spectrum, we had businesses telling us they didn’t employ any migrant workers and that restrictions would have no effect.

“At the other, there were businesses concerned they would be unable to function and might close if the supply of migrants dried up."

It is estimated that there are at least 10,000 EU migrants working in Cumbria, and the bulk of them are in the hospitality and food processing industries.

The survey results come in the wake of the Gazette's report last week which highlighted concerns that Brexit could leave a 'gaping' jobs hole within the tourism industry.

In response to the survey, several hotels reported a drop in the number of job applications and a hotel chain said that a number of EU nationals were feeling negative about their future prospects and some had already left.

Beech Hill, situated on the shores of Windermere, is one of the establishments that stands to be affected.

The hotel and spa employs 52 people - half of which are EU migrants. Managing director Fraser Richardson told the Chamber that he had seen a 'noticeable reduction' in the number of job applications from EU migrants since the referendum.

“The kitchen is pretty much all migrant workers, as is the housekeeping team, and we also have migrants in public-facing roles," he said.

“Where we have recruited UK workers, and they stay, they can become great employees. But often they don’t stay. They don’t like working shifts. Very often migrants have a better work ethic. They know what they’re here to do.”

The Chamber was prompted to carry out the survey following a request from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

Its findings have been fed into the BCC’s submission to the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence on the impacts of Brexit. The committee is a public body that advises government on migration issues.

Mr Johnston said: “More than 16 months after the EU referendum, we are no clearer as to what restrictions on migrant labour will apply after Brexit.

He added: “Our survey also explodes the myth that migrant workers are low or semi-skilled.

“We found examples of highly-qualified migrants in the nuclear industry, for example. They may be few in number but their contribution is huge.”