The British Retail Consortium has warned Home Secretary Sajid Javid that immigration rules after Brexit threaten to leave the retail industry short of staff and hit shoppers’ purses.

The BRC wrote to Javid to express concern at the migration advisory committee’s (MAC) proposal to restrict visas for overseas workers earning less than £30,000 a year.

The trade body cautioned that, in order to preserve consumer prices and choice, a “work migration route for lower skilled workers” was essential.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said in the letter that there were at present 92,000 retail industry vacancies and that “meeting this demand is difficult without resourcing from the widest possible labour pool”.

92,000 retail vacancies

She maintained: “Without access to lower skilled workers from outside the UK that pool reduces significantly, and resourcing becomes even more challenging.

“The retail industry relies on the contribution of 170,000 colleagues from the EU, around 6% of the total workforce.

“In distribution and logistics, this proportion rises to over a third in some locations. One in five of the EU nationals currently working in the UK work within the food and drink supply chain.

“The retail industry warmly welcomed the government’s generous offer of settled status and hopes many EU colleagues will remain in the UK in the future.

“However, we do not agree with MAC’s assessment that this pool of workers will be sufficient to meet the industry’s workforce needs.”