A report by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has revealed that one in three of the UK’s food and farming businesses would become “unviable” without European workers – 36% of business owners said that their business model will fail if they can’t hire EU nationals.

The research was gathered from 627 businesses, including the Association of Labour Providers, the British Beer and Pub Association and the National Farmers’ Union. To protect the future of food and drink businesses in the UK, the FDF are calling on the government to secure the rights of EU nationals currently living and working in the UK, and to review how immigration data is recorded.

In the UK at the moment, there are two million EU nationals within the economy. 20% are working in the food and drink supply chain, and to make matters worse, more and more EU workers are looking to leave the EU due to uncertainty over their residential future in the UK.

17% of businesses also said that they would have to move their operations overseas if there was a block on EU nationals working in the UK. A mass departure could be extremely damaging to the UK Agriculture Industry.

The results of this mass-departure would obviously be catastrophic, with business struggling to fill gaps in the workforce, and ultimately leading to a short to medium term skills deficit. Although ‘upskilling’ can be a solution to this issue, it does not alleviate the problem in the short term.

It seems that, at least for now, EU workers are key to getting British food and drink on our shelves, from producing food, through transport, to providing service in our stores, immigration is vital to the supply chain in the UK. EU employees currently working in the UK will need further clarity about their status once the UK leaves the EU.

Richard Marsh, Hawsons Partner at the Doncaster Office commented: “As the Brexit debate rumbles on, mixed messages are received from the Government on EU Immigration. However, British Industry appears in no doubt on the necessity to hire EU workers.”

Richard Marsh is managing partner in the Doncaster office and joined Hawsons after working for two major international accounting firms. He has over 30 years’ experience in dealing with the needs of businesses of all sizes and acts for a wide range of commercial clients. For more details and advice, please contact Richard on rwm@hawsons.co.uk or 01302 367 262.

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