The union criticised Leadsom of failing to devise a plan which would protect the food industry after Brexit, after she appeared at the House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee on October 19.
It claimed she failed to answer how Brexit would impact food prices, or whether the UK could be forced to use World Trade Organisation (WTO) trading rules if it failed to negotiate a deal after it left the EU.
GMB national officer Eamon O’Hearn said: “Andrea Leadsom has today utterly failed to explain what Brexit – [which] she vocally supported – will mean for the UK food industry or for shoppers feeling the pinch.
‘A huge threat to the viability of the food industry’
“Brexit is a huge threat to the viability of the UK food industry and requires a strategy to protect it – and it’s now clear there isn’t one.”
O’Hearn said the alleged lack of answers would leave “an unpleasant taste in the mouths” of consumers, businesses and the hundreds of thousands of people working in the food industry.
“People need a guarantee that their jobs will be safe, that goods will not become too expensive and that workers’ rights won’t be eroded because of this government’s Brexit negotiations.”
Many food manufacturers worry about what the UK government intends to do about the 100,000 non-UK EU nationals that already work in the UK food sector post-Brexit. There are fears too about how the government can restrict the number of migrant workers coming into the UK, while negotiating a trade deal that allowed access to the EU’s 500M consumers.
Push the price of meat and wine up
Earlier this month, the British Retail Consortium warned that being forced to use WTO trading rules – or a hard Brexit – would push the price of meat and wine up for UK consumers by 27% and 14% respectively. It called for government to negotiate a Brexit deal that wouldn’t impact household bills.
A separate report from the Fraser of Allander Institute found that up to 1,500 food and drink industry jobs could be lost in Scotland after Brexit. The UK’s decision to leave the EU could cost the Scottish food sector £150M, it warned.
Meanwhile, the environment secretary said in an exclusive video interview that the government was “very much aware” of the food and farming sector’s reliance on non-UK EU workers. She said the prime minister Theresa May “absolutely intends” to protect the right of the 100,000 non-UK EU nations working in the sector to remain in this country after Brexit. See the video interview below.
Noone from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was available to respond to the GMB’s claims.
GMB blasts environment secretary – at a glance
- GMB said Leadsom had no strategy for protecting food industry post-Brexit
- Claimed the lack of answers would leave businesses and workers in limbo
- Union wants guarantee that jobs would be safe