EU workers in food and drink industry need assurance over Brexit | Letters

An employee works on the fresh vegetable display at a Morrisons supermarket

If the UK government does not move to reassure EU workers, shoppers will face less food choice and higher prices, say the signatories to this letter.
Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nearly 4 million people are employed in growing, harvesting, producing, packaging, selling and serving our food and drink.

In light of the vote for Brexit, the importance of food and drink to our nation’s economic and physical wellbeing should be recognised and its future secured. In recent years, Britain has enjoyed access to a wider range of safe, high-quality food and drink, at every price point, than ever before. At a time when household incomes are under increasing pressure, shop prices for food have been kept in check for more than three years and, if that is to continue, the government must ensure the place of food and drink both in our new industrial strategy and at the heart of the Brexit negotiations.

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.

If we adopt a work-permit system to control immigration, then the whole of our supply chain must receive equal treatment with financial services or the automotive sectors. All options should be explored, including a workable points-based system for shortage occupations, sector-based and seasonal/guest worker schemes and effective transitionary arrangements. If they are not, the UK will face less food choice and higher food prices.
Ian Wright Director general, Food and Drink Federation
Paul Rooke Head of policy, external relations, Agricultural Industries Confederation
James Smith President, Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers
Paul Wheeler Chair, Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers
David Camp Chief executive, Association of Labour Providers
Kate Nicholls Chief executive, Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers
Andy Tighe Policy director, British Beer and Pubs Association
Chris Stemman Executive director, British Coffee Association
John Hyman Chief executive, British Frozen Food Federation
Jack Ward Chief executive, British Growers Association
Henrietta Sameke Technical policy adviser, British Meat Processors Association
Richard Griffiths Chief executive, British Poultry Council
Helen Dickinson Chief executive, British Retail Consortium
Gavin Partington Director general, British Soft Drinks Association
Declan O’Brien Director general, British Specialist Nutrition Association
Gordon Polson Director, Federation of Bakers
Sandra Sullivan Director, Food and Drink Exporters Association
Nigel Jenney CEO, Fresh Produce Consortium
Liz Murphy CEO, International Meat Trade Association and National Association of Catering Butchers
Alex Waugh Director general, National Association of British and Irish Millers
Bob Price Director and policy adviser, National Association of Cider Makers
Terry Jones Director general, National Farmers Union
Michael Bell Executive director, Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association
Dick Searle CEO, Packaging Federation
Michael Bellingham Chief executive, Petfood Manufacturers’ Association
Andrew Kuyk Director general, Provision Trade Federation
James Withers Chief executive, Scotland Food and Drink
Simon Cripps Chairman, Seasoning and Spice Association
Sharon Hall Director general, Potato Processors’ Association and Nut and Crisp Manufacturers’ Association
Steve Morgan Chair, UK Flavour Association

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