Food and drink sector needs clarity on future of migrant workers post-Brexit, report finds

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Calls for swift decisions on the future of migrant workers post-Brexit have been made, following a report highlighting how the issue could damage the region’s food sector.

A report commissioned by The Food and Drink Federation identified a number of key obstacles that the industry faces – and immigration was one, with a fear that exiting the EU may threaten the future should the sector not receive government support to help manage any transition.

The study went on to call for the food and drink sector to be prioritised as the UK’s largest manufacturing industry in relation to any new immigration policy.

Latest research reveals that up to 30% of workers in this region’s seafood sector are of Eastern European origin. Meanwhile in the UK agricultural sector, 85,000 seasonal workers are employed for the annual harvest.

Many are European and arrive on work permits in Lincolnshire.

Chief Executive of the Grimsby Fish Market, Martyn Boyers is also Chair of the British Ports Association’s Fishing Ports Group, a working body involved with Defra on shaping Fisheries Brexit policy.

He has emphasised that the £200 million of fish that is handled through UK Fishing Ports, the landing of fish from vessels and the jobs it generates in processing are essential for communities and vital for the national economy.

He said:

“When it comes to the recruitment of staff, this is always going to be a potential issue and we need to do everything possible to ensure people are available.”

Tom Martin is a trainee solicitor working in the employment team at regional law firm, Wilkin Chapman solicitors. He said there was an emerging picture of companies already seeing a downturn in workforce, due to fears over what Brexit may bring.

“Amidst much speculation as to how freedom of movement may be affected, it would appear that companies are already seeing a shortage of EU workers, who are put off coming to the UK.

“Once the Brexit deal is agreed, businesses will likely have further reduced access to EU workers with potentially tighter immigration controls or even bans on recruitment from EU sources.

“It is likely that migrant workers will start looking elsewhere following Brexit.

“What is certain is that decision makers on the Brexit deal need to address this issue quickly and provide some level of clarity so businesses can plan for the future.”