PM ‘intends to protect’ EU national workers already here, after Brexit

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

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The prime minister “absolutely intends” to protect the right of up to 100,000 non-UK EU nationals already working in the British food and drink sector to remain in this country after Brexit, according to her environment secretary Andrea Leadsom.

In this exclusive video interview with Food Manufacture – the first interview with a business publication since her appointment to the helm of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – the environment secretary said the government was “very much aware​of the food and farming sector's reliance on the labour of non-UK EU nationals. 

‘Protect workers who are already here’

“The prime minister has made it very clear, she absolutely intends to protect​ [EU national] workers who are already here. That is a top priority,” ​said Leadsom in the interview filmed at The Jordans & Ryvita Company’s head office near Biggleswade, Bedfordshire last Wednesday (September 21).

“But, at the same time this is a complicated negotiation and we have to think about the situation of Britons who have settled in the EU,” ​she added.

The DEFRA boss told “We are very much aware of the extent of current reliance on EU nationals for labour and also seasonal work and these things are being very closely looked at, as we come up with a plan for the Brexit negotiations.”

EU’s 500M consumers

Asked about how the government could secure access to the EU’s 500M consumers while restricting the ability of further EU nationals to work here, the environment secretary answered: “We are working through the implications of different methods of leaving the EU.”

Leadsom promised the government would “look line-by-line at what will be the best way to achieve that exit ​[of the EU] for each different type of food and farming produce”. ​The implications varied for different types of food and farming produce and the government was analysing the potential impacts, ahead of the formal Brexit negotiations expected to start next year.

“But, rest assured, we absolutely mean to get the best possible deal for British food producers.”

The DEFRA boss visited Jordans to celebrate its export achievement. Read more in the box below.

Jordans boosts exports by 60% in five years

Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom visited Jordans’ Biggleswade factory last week (Wednesday, September 21) to celebrate its success in boosting exports by 60% to reach more than £90M over the past five years.

The breakfast cereals manufacturer uses British oats to make products sold in more than 70 countries worldwide, including Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.

Exports contribute a third of The Jordan & Ryvita Company’s overall business. Dedicated marketing teams worldwide have helped the manufacturer grow exports sales​ from £57M to £91M over the past five years.

The DEFRA boss said her department’s Great British Food Unit and the forthcoming export action plan would “help food and drink manufacturers sell more to the rest of the world”.

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