Changes to the UK's immigration system will not include a visa option for low-skilled migrant workers after Brexit and employers ‘will need to adjust’, the Government has said.

A policy statement outlining plans for a new points-based system after freedom of movement ends said the economy needs to move away from a reliance on ‘cheap labour from Europe’.

The changes are designed to cut the number of low-skilled migrants entering Britain from the beginning of next year but aim to make it easier for higher-skilled workers to get UK visas.

The ‘firm and fair’ system will instead ‘attract the high-skilled workers we need to contribute to our economy, our communities and our public services’, according to the Government paper, due to be published on Wednesday.

The salary threshold for EU migrant workers coming to the UK with a job offer will stand at £25,600 – taking on board the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee – down from the original figure touted of £30,000.

The paper reads: “We will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route. We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust.”

New immigration arrangements under consultation have been met with alarm in Cumbria – particularly in the tourism sector, which is worth £3 billion a year to the county’s economy.

Around a third of Cumbria’s 65,000-strong tourism workforce is from outside the UK, with the overwhelming majority from Europe. And the average wage in the sector is £17,000 – £8,500 below the threshold that will come into force.

There have already been warnings relayed to Cumbria Chamber of Commerce that some hotels in the county may be forced to close if the supply of migrant workers dries up as a result of the new rules.

Hotels and attractions are now bracing themselves for a recruitment headache in light of the county’s ageing workforce and relatively low unemployment levels – particularly in tourism hotspot areas.

Employers will have until January 1, 2021 to meet the requirements and ensure their staff have a right to work in the UK.

The Government document added: "We recognise that these proposals represent significant change for employers in the UK and we will deliver a comprehensive programme of communication and engagement in the coming months.

"We will keep labour market data under careful scrutiny to monitor any pressures in key sectors."

The CBI’s director general, Carolyn Fairbairn, said the new system needed ‘careful implementation’ across UK nations and regions.

“In some sectors firms will be left wondering how they will recruit the people needed to run their businesses. With already low unemployment, firms in care, construction, hospitality, food and drink could be most affected,” she said.

“Firms know that hiring from overseas and investing in the skills of their workforce and new technologies is not an ‘either or’ choice – both are needed to drive the economy forward.

“A regularly reviewed shortage occupations list, with promises of further flexibility, will be vital for the effectiveness of the new system.

“Above all, the Government must work with employers and employees - especially smaller firms - to ensure they have the time to adapt to new policies and practices.”

The Government has said EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally but ‘top priority’ will be given to those with ‘the highest skills and the greatest talents’, such as scientists, engineers and academics.

Its paper concluded: “For too long, distorted by European free movement rights, the immigration system has been failing to meet the needs of the British people. Our approach will change all of this.”