Brexit: Food industry warns of higher UK prices

Food and drink associations have warned that the UK will face higher food prices without continued access to EU workers.

In a letter published in The Guardian, they argued that EU workers play an important role in the supply chain and that some are already starting to leave.

It called on the government to offer ‘unambiguous reassurance’ regarding their right to remain.

The Home Office said in response it was ‘harnessing the industry’s knowledge’ and ‘ensuring their voice was heard’.

In food manufacturing just under a third of workers are from the EU.

The letter said: ‘Workers from the EU, some of whom are already leaving the UK, play a significant role in delivering affordable and high-quality food and drink.

‘The government should offer unambiguous reassurance to EU workers throughout our supply chain about their right to remain. For the longer term, it is important to recognise that these workers are highly flexible and provide an essential reservoir of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour.’

The trade associations also warned that the country’s food security could be at risk.

Signatories to the letter included the Food and Drink Federation, the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers and the British Beer and Pubs Association.

Nestle chair Dame Fiona Kendrick, who is also president of the Food and Drink Federation, says there are “a lot of skills we’re not able to meet” in the UK.

She added that often companies have to look abroad for food engineers and other skilled labour, because not enough graduates are coming through from UK universities.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK needs a fair and controlled immigration policy and that is exactly what this government will deliver.

“As we draw up our plans to leave the EU, we are harnessing industry’s knowledge and experience and ensuring their voice is heard.”

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