Business leaders' forum

What keeps Wyke Farms boss awake at night?

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

What keeps Wyke Farms md Richard Clothier awake at night? “Everything”, he tells us in this disarmingly frank video interview. But his particular concerns focus on the availability of labour and the UK’s potential exit from the EU.

“I’m concerned about the availability of labour. If we exit​ [the EU], I’d like to see what immigration strategy might follow,”​ said Clothier in this exclusive video interview filmed at the Food Manufacture Group’s Business Leaders’ Forum last month.

“Obviously the food sector is dependent on migrant labour,”​ he added. “Some people in the forum were saying up to 30% of the ​[food sector] workforce were of non-UK origin.”

No Plan B

Commenting on environment secretary Liz Truss’s admission that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had no Plan B – if Britain votes to quit the EU in a referendum, possibly as early as this summer – Clothier underlined the need to form contingency plans.

“I think DEFRA should have a Plan B. Also I think most people today certainly hope that the UK would stay in the EU,”​ he said.  

“In the unlikely event that we come out ​[of the EU] I would like DEFRA to have, at least, some blueprints for trading agreements and immigration strategy.”

‘Damaging the UK economy’

Clothier feared the public could vote in the referendum on the basis of emotion, with a vote to quit “damaging the UK economy and having an impact on jobs”.

Speaking at the same seminar, Greencore boss Patrick Coveney said the UK food industry would be much better off​ within the union than outside and that his business had no Plan B​ for life outside the EU.  

The forum was held at the offices of host sponsor law firm DWF at the Walkie Talkie building, central London on Wednesday January 20. The other sponsors of the event were ALcontrol Laboratories and insurance firm RSA. Watch out for a video interview with the sponsors later this week.

Meanwhile, don’t miss four food and industry questions about the potential gains and losses​ of Britain voting to leave the EU. 

  • This video was produced by Laurence Gibbons.

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