Home Business News Food firms 'unviable' without EU staff

Food firms 'unviable' without EU staff


More than a third of UK firms in the ‘farm to fork’ sector are warning their businesses are “unviable” without access to EU workers after Brexit.

A survey, compiled by the Food and Drink Federation but including the views of companies within a range of trade bodies in the wider produce industry, showed 36% feared for their very future.
The report found 31% of firms had already lost EU staff in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU in June last year while 47% warned workers were considering their future as Brexit negotiations continued.
There are currently around two million EU nationals working in the country with 20% of them in the food and drink supply chain including the soft fruit sector.
It warned in June that strawberry costs could soar by 50% if labour was to be restricted – arguing many UK workers lacked the will and the skills needed.

Video: Travelodge boss’s Brexit warning on workers

A separate study by the business services firm Deloitte suggested the country faced the prospect of a Brexit brain drain with a major initiative to boost skills needed if damage was to be limited.
While the Government has signalled tougher immigration rules lie ahead once the UK leaves the bloc, it has moved to reassure those EU citizens living in the country they can remain – proposing applications for ‘settled status’.
Temporary workers – such as those working in seasonal produce – are yet to learn if they would be barred.

Director general of the Food and Drink Federation, Ian Wright, said: “The UK food and drink supply chain ensures that consumers have access to the safe, affordable and delicious range of food and drink that they have come to expect.

Video: Travelodge boss’s Brexit warning on workers

“Food is a matter of national security, so the results of this report are of central concern to businesses across the ‘farm to fork’ industries.
“It is only a matter of time before the uncertainty reported by businesses results in an irreversible exit of EU workers from these shores. This is a scenario that will hurt the UK culturally and economically.
“Without our dedicated and valued workforce, we would be unable to feed the nation. This is why it is imperative that we receive assurances from Government about their future, and that of our wider workforce.”
The Government is continuing to formulate its plans for a new immigration framework.
A spokesman said: “We will be setting out our initial proposals for this system in the autumn but we have already been clear there will be an implementation period after we leave the EU to avoid a cliff edge for businesses.
“In June we published our offer to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK, confirming no-one living here lawfully will be asked to leave when we exit the EU and they will have a grace period to regularise their status.”

Source: Sky News