Thousands of businesses face having to drastically reduce their dependence on EU workers if immigration from the bloc is too tightly controlled, the British Hospitality Association has warned.

Staff from the European Union make up nearly a quarter of all jobs in the hospitality sector but it faces a shortfall of 60,000 workers a year.

A report by KPMG for the BHA warns that it will take 10 years to reduce the need for EU workers by training British staff, targeting older workers and encouraging younger people to take jobs in the sector.

But with the UK economy approaching full employment, the report claims that there are no easy pools of labour to exploit and that EU nationals will still make up a large part of the workforce.

The KPMG study says that 75% of waiting staff in the UK, 37% of house-keeping employees and a quarter of all chefs are from the EU.

It comes as the first major business intervention since the triggering of Article 50.

The hospitality industry represents three million workers and about a tenth of the UK’s economic wealth.

But immigration is set to be one of the most controversial issues to be settled during the Brexit negotiations, the BBC reported.

BHA chief executive, Ufi Ibrahim, said: “It is clear that hospitality and tourism face major problems in recruitment if there is any major cut in the number of workers allowed to enter from the EU.

“We want to avoid there being any cliff edge but the government must be aware that in the medium to long term we will still need considerable numbers of EU workers, who have contributed so much to our industry and the UK economy in general.

“We are aware of our responsibility to encourage more UK nationals to see the career opportunities available in hospitality and tourism.

“We do need the government to play its part too, by recognising our employment needs and recognising how important this industry, the fourth largest, is to the country.”

Ibrahim is meeting officials from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to discuss the report.