A controversial think tank’s proposal that the wage threshold for European workers post-Brexit should be raised to at least £36,700 would “sell the Lake District economy down the river”, it has been claimed.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has recommended that the Government significantly ups the £30,000 cap it is currently considering in a move it says will bring more opportunities for UK workers.

The increase has received a frosty reception in Cumbria, where businesses in the tourism industry in particular have argued for the £30,000 threshold to be reduced.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Farron recently led a delegation including Windermere Lake Cruises and travel operator Mountain Goat Tours to lobby immigration minister Caroline Nokes on an issue they fear will severely damage Cumbria’s £3 billion tourism industry.

The then home secretary Sajid Javid had instructed the Migration Advisory Committee – which is guiding the Government on its post Brexit EU immigration policy – to look at lowering the cap to £22,500.

However, tourism businesses have argued that the £7,500 reduction would still not be enough in an area where the average wage in hospitality stands at £17,000, with many already struggling to recruit.

On the CSJ’s new recommendation made in its ‘Prioritising Growth – The Future of Immigration Policy’ paper, Mr Farron, said: “The proposals that are being presented to the Home Secretary would sell the Lake District economy down the river.

“The proposed £36,700 salary floor, which is around twice the average wage in hospitality, is completely unrealistic and seriously harmful to our vital local tourism industry.

“There are over 20,000 non-UK staff working in our tourism and hospitality industry locally. And with only a few hundred people registered as unemployed in Westmorland and Lonsdale there is no untapped pool of local labour waiting to fill the thousands of vacancies this Government will force on the industry.

“If this Government really cares about protecting the Lake District economy, then they should be listening to local hoteliers not Conservative think tanks.”

The current £30,000 wage cap proposals would bring migrants from the European Union in line with workers from the rest of the world. It would mean that they would have to find a job which pays at least £30,000 a year to stay in the UK longer term.

However, the CSJ argues that the Government needs to respond to concerns over immigration levels – a key issue in the lead up to voters deciding to leave European Union in 2016.

And while it says a list of some roles and industries where there is a pressing need for skills that are in short supply, such as in the NHS, it does not believe that applies to the service industry.

In the conclusion of its report, it says: “Importing poor and low skilled workers to fuel the service industry, at the cost of UK-born workers and the countries of origin who lose their own home-grown labour, is hardly an ethical obligation.”

The CSJ, which was co-founded by Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, courted further controversy last month when it recommended the state pension age should rise to 70 by 2028 and to 75 by 2035.

The move – which it argued would help boost the UK economy – was met with anger by some politicians and unions, who branded it uncompassionate.