Wetherspoons owner Tim Martin is calling on the government to introduce a liberal immigration system to help staff his pubs in the East Midlands.
JD Wetherspoon was founded by Mr Martin in 1979 and sells low-priced ales, breakfasts, lunches and dinner, and has 66 pubs in the East Midlands.
Mr Martin says more EU migration is needed to help tackle the shortage of bar staff working in the UK.
He urged Boris Johnson to introduce a “reasonably liberal immigration system” controlled by Britain rather than the European Union.
He recommended the prime minister adopt a visa scheme for workers from the bloc to help the country’s pubs and restaurants hire more staff as they recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Martin also suggested that countries geographically closer to the UK could be prioritised for the programme.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “The UK has a low birth rate. A reasonably liberal immigration system controlled by those we have elected, as distinct from the EU system, would be a plus for the economy and the country. America, Australia and Singapore have benefitted for many decades from this approach. Immigration combined with democracy works.”
The pub chain’s boss was one of the most prominent British business voices for leaving the EU ahead of the referendum.
A visa system would make it easier for pubs and restaurants to hire workers from the bloc, with post-Brexit rules making it more difficult for workers in lower-skilled roles to settle in the country.
According to recruitment website Caterer.com, roughly one in 10 hospitality workers have left the sector over the past 12 months, while the industry’s trade body, UK Hospitality, estimated a shortfall of about 188,000 workers due to successive lockdowns.