By Mark Williamson

Plans to limit the number of skilled workers from EU countries that can be recruited by firms following Brexit could cause big problems for small businesses, sector champions have warned.

The Federation of Small Businesses said a proposal to impose a £30,000 minimum salary threshold for all those coming to work in skilled jobs will leave firms that rely on international talent concerned for the future. It complained the threshold is far too high to be manageable for small firms amid concerns they may not be given enough time to prepare for any changes.

The £30,000 threshold currently applies to non EU nationals who fill roles covered by the Tier 2 visa scheme for skilled workers.

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Theresa May proposed to extend the arrangement to EU nationals. Boris Johnson is thought to be preparing to move to an Australian-style points system, under which people without the required skills would be unable to work in the UK.

During the General Election campaign he pledged to “bear down” on immigration.

The FSB yesterday flagged concerns about how changes to the current system could hamper small firms. It found one-in-five small businesses with employees rely on EU staff.

“With overheads for small firms mounting... the extension of the £30,000 threshold threatens to cause serious disruption to a labour market already beset by skills shortages and limited vacancies.’ said FSB chairman Mike Cherry.

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He added: “The £30,000 figure has to be looked at again and a more sensible threshold of £20,100

rolled out.”

Mr Cherry said sectors such as construction, manufacturing and IT would be hit particularly hard if the current proposals come into force.

The FSB found 81 per cent of firms that employed "skilled" workers on salaries of less than £30,000 could not afford to increase rates to recruit overseas staff. Around 80% of firms hiring staff who would be covered by the rule change employed them in roles with salaries below £30,000.