Food and drink industry issues warning over importance of EU workers' rights to stay

Thu 24 Aug 2017
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

eu workers - food and drink
Despite an overall positive year for the food and drink industry in terms of exports – with exports up 8.5% this year from 2016 – there is significant fear that a loss of EU national employees due to Brexit could hit hart.

The industry has issued a warning that should the government fail to stem the flow of EU workers leaving the UK, there could be considerable harm and disruption for the industry – and also the UK’s consumers of course.

Industry unites in concern

Food and drink jobs represent around fifth of the 2 million EU nationals working in the UK.  

The industry as a whole – including manufacturers, retailers, farmers, restaurants and more – has told the government that it must avoid a ‘cliff-edge’ Brexit. If it fails to do so, the ability of the industry to feed UK mouths will be severely affected.

Concern over the freedom of movement for EU employees in the UK is being felt across all industries. In our recent ‘1 year on from Brexit’ survey, 66.35% of respondents rated the importance of maintaining freedom of movement as between 7 and 10, with 31.19% giving it the full 10 out of 10.

Workers fretting

In another survey of 600 businesses representing a million workers from the food chain’s significant workforce, almost a half said they planned to leave due to uncertainty about their rights to work in the UK.

PM May has begun to sketch out plans for EU nationals to continue living working in the UK, with plans for those who lawfully arrive before Brexit to garner the same rights to work as UK citizens. The exact process is still under duress, however, with the EU not yet satisfied with the UK’s stance.

Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, has said: 

“It is only a matter of time before the uncertainty reported by businesses results in an irreversible exit of EU workers from these shores. This is a scenario that will hurt the UK culturally and economically.”


Open to Export - Food and Drink 2017

On a more positive note, the annual Open to Export food and drink feature month has started, collecting case studies, guides and more for the industry, in collaboration with the Food and Drink Federation and the Food and Drink Exporters Association.

Visit the feature page

As part of the feature month, you can also sign up to a webinar on ‘Strategies to grow international sales through trade shows’, featuring experts from the FDEA, SIAL 2018 and UBM Allworld.


'Food and Drink industry says EU staff exodus will dame the economy' - the Guardian, 24/08/17