Even after leaving the EU, it will be years before UK workers begin doing the work that EU migrants are doing now, Brexit secretary David Davis told an Estonian audience.
Speaking during a diplomatic tour of eastern European countries, Davis appeared keen to offer reassurance that the UK will remain open to migrants for many years to come.
“In the hospitality sector, hotels, and restaurants, in the social care sector, working in agriculture, it will take time. It will be years and years before we get British citizens to do those jobs,” he told an audience in Estonia.
“Don’t expect just because we’re changing who makes the decision on the policy, the door will suddenly shut. It won’t,” he stressed.
Davis said the UK was economically successful partly because “we have clever people; talented people come to Britain.”
“Even on the wider area, where we’ve got less well-paid people who have come to live and work in Britain, that will take time,” he added.
Millionaire UKIP donor Arron Banks took exception to the minister’s views, telling the Times newspaper that he found them astonishing.
“If you look at the figures, most people who voted for Brexit did so because of immigration and are going to ask what the point of it was if we don’t even control our own borders,” Banks said.
“They are going to be very disappointed. But the Tories have always been the party of business so it is of no surprise that the government has sided with them over the voters,” he stressed.
Davis’ comments reflect a concern that British people will be unwilling to take the low-paid jobs that have typically been carried out by migrants for a long time.
Interestingly, his comment on migrants was not included in a government statement issued to the public after his visit.