The need for a continuing flow of EU workers to Britain has been “greatly exaggerated”, according to a campaign group.
Migration Watch UK said it analysed official data following claims a significant reduction in net migration will be a “catastrophe” for UK businesses.
Its paper concluded there is little evidence of “churn” among workers from Eastern Europe and no sign of any significant outflow of EU workers.
In any case, the report said, the stock of EU workers in the UK can be maintained with nil net migration since those who leave could be replaced by others without adding to the figure.
“The Government must insist that claims that we need an endless flow of workers from the EU to fill lower-skilled jobs are gone over with a fine toothcomb,” said chairman Lord Green of Deddington.
The body said: “The need for ever-more EU workers in the UK has been greatly exaggerated.”
The reliance of parts of the UK economy on migrant labour has come under close scrutiny in the wake of the Brexit vote last year.
An official analysis published in April and based on 2016 data showed that EU nationals account for as many as one in 10 employees in some sectors, with an estimated 3.4 million (11%) of the UK labour market, were overseas nationals: around 2.2 million EU nationals (7%) and 1.2 million non-EU nationals (4%).
Statisticians said international migration is particularly important to the wholesale and retail, hospitality, and public administration and health sectors.
Migration Watch, which campaigns for tighter immigration controls, argued: “The significance of EU workers to particular sectors depends not only on their number but also on their proportion in the sector; this is often low.”
Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “Anyone who has ever set foot in an NHS hospital would know the important jobs that immigrants do.
“Businesses are working hard to train more British people to do the jobs they need and they are making progress.
“But it takes time and people don’t just become expert engineers or doctors overnight.”