The UK food industry have warned that an impending Brexit labour shortage could leave many businesses unviable.
The food industry in the UK have warned that a shortage of EU workers could be on the horizon with Brexit looming.
A survey was carried out by the FDA and found that almost 50% of EU nationals working in the UK would consider leaving the country, as reported by BBC news.
The survey, carried out on the farm to fork supply chains, found that since the Brexit vote migration numbers into the UK have fallen considerably. The Food and Drinks Federation have made calls for these EU workers from all over the European Economic Area to be given guaranteed rights. The survey had a total of 627 responses across various different farming sectors. This represents almost a quarter of the food chain’s total employment of 4 million people.
Of all businesses surveyed, 47% of all employed EU nationals polled said they would consider leaving the UK. Meanwhile 36% of businesses said operating in the UK would be unviable should they have no access to skilled EU workers. 31% of EU nationals have said they have been considering their futures since the referendum took place, while 17% of businesses say they may have to relocate overseas should there be no access to EU nationals.
Reports suggest that the number of EU workers to leave the UK will only increase once final details of Brexit are confirmed. The government have been warned that without these valuable workers, the UK may not be able to feed the nation.
A Government spokesperson has spoken of the recent publishing of documents back in June, with the aim of protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK. It also confirmed that no person living in the UK legally will be asked to leave upon the UK's exit from the EU. They will be given a grace period to confirm their status.
The federation have made the calls for the government to make sure that there is no instant reduction of EU nationals working in the UK. They did though acknowledge that there are practicalities to the government’s plan, though no costs have been announced as of yet. The federation also say that in order for the scheme to be successful, the Home Office would need to be able to register up to 2.5 million Europeans each year.
The National Farmers Union also made the calls for action to be taken and for clarity over the situation. The say they need a certain access to these workers as well as clarity on some other issues regards Brexit.
The government say they are actively working on immigration system which works in the best interests of everyone in the UK. They say the views and thoughts of different businesses in the food, drink, and the agricultural sectors will be taken into consideration before anything is decided. They aim to outline all proposals by autumn of this year, though they did confirm that there will be an implementation period after the UK’s eventual exit from the EU.
In the longer term, the federation acknowledged the need to adapt to the situation and say they will place a strong emphasis on skilling local workers through apprenticeships and investments.