The majority of EU citizens currently living and working in Britain would not meet the strict criteria for a UK visa if the UK left the EU, according to a new report.
The Migration Observatory at Oxford University estimated that currently, three-quarters of EU migrant workers would fail the tough visa requirements, and that the figure would increase to 81 per cent when even more restrictive regulations come into force in April next year.
The skills and earnings requirements for a UK visa would hit industries that currently employ EU citizens differently, the report said.
It found that while hotels, restaurants and the distribution sectors are currently the largest employers of EU staff in the UK, just four per cent of people working in these areas would meet the current UK visa requirements.
Similarly, in low-wage agricultural sector, it estimated that only four per cent of workers would be eligible for UK visas under the current system.
The transport, manufacturing, energy and construction industries would also lose around three-quarters of their EU staff under the current rules, the report found.
More people were likely to meet the UK visa requirements if they were working in the banking, health, education and public administration sectors. However, the figures was still less than 50 per cent.
Report author, Carlos Vargas-Silva, said: “Most sectors of the UK labour market now have a significant EU migrant workforce — and many of these are lower-paid sectors, such as hotels and manufacturing.
“The biggest challenge with analysing the impacts of Brexit on migration is that we can’t know what policies EU citizens would face until after the referendum. Some scenarios involve almost no change to policy at all, while others would be a huge departure from the status quo.”