Wakefield is second Yorkshire council to deliver Brexit warning over potential immigration cut

A second Yorkshire council has expressed concerns about the potential economic impact of a reduction in EU migrant labour after Brexit.

Wakefield Council said businesses could take a hit if Prime Minister Theresa May’s commitment to ending free movement of EU citizens leads to a reduction of workers coming to the UK from the continent.

It also expressed fears about a cut in investment in its logistics sector in documents released under Freedom of Information laws.

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It comes after The Yorkshire Post revealed last week that East Riding of Yorkshire Council, which takes in former Brexit Secretary David Davis’s Haltemprice and Howden constituency, warned it faces a “perfect storm” of staff shortages if European immigration is reduced after Britain leaves the EU, with the potential for “market failure” in social care.

But Wakefield was the only council out of five in West Yorkshire to begin drawing up contingency plans for the possibility of a no deal Brexit.

The possibility of a no deal Brexit appears to have increased in recent weeks, with the Prime Minister's Chequers plan under attack from the EU as well as both sides of the Tory Party, and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney suggesting last month the probability of it was “uncomfortably high”.

Wakefield Council said it had set up a working group to look at all scenarios, and highlighted several areas where it had identified concerns.

Echoing the fears of East Riding, it said: “Many low volume smaller manufacturing firms in Wakefield have become highly dependent on EU migrant labour. A reduction in that labour force will increase costs for those firms, but may stimulate investment in automation and employee skills development. However, the options firms will gravitate towards is currently uncertain.”

Brexit negotiations have entered a crucial phase, with November thought to be the deadline for reaching a deal.

The council has also assigned £5m of its own reserves to mitigate Brexit.

Meanwhile, Leeds City Council acknowledged Brexit was a “risk” but said no impact assessment had been done because negotiations were still ongoing.

Similarly, Bradford Council said that while a no deal would be “the most disruptive of all scenarios”, no explicit plans had been drawn up for it.

However, the authority did refer to a report it published in October 2016, which it said addressed “risks and opportunities around the economy, infrastructure and housing, labour market and migration, EU funding, council finances and community relations”.

Kirklees Council said it was monitoring the potential impact of Brexit on the region, and that its work would “step up as we become clearer about the nature of the deal with EU, or in the event there is no deal”.

Calderdale said it was completing a “comprehensive updated risk and impact assessment” which would be presented to its Audit Committee in the autumn.

Bradford and Calderdale both said that no cash had been specifically earmarked for the issue, but that reserves were available to deal with risks and unforeseen events.

Leeds said its reserve levels were “subject to constant review” and would be adjusted if any “additional financial risks” were identified.

Kirklees said that “no specific budget had been set aside” for its work in probing the issue.